The Emerge Film Festival will feature more than 40 films and four parties. A schedule of events can be found at

LEWISTON — K-von Moezzi apologizes for not being more dreary about things.

In his ancestral land of Iran, sad movies are widely embraced, but Moezzi decided to go another way.

“I apologize,” he told a crowd at the Franco Center on Thursday night. “But we’re going to laugh a little bit and have some fun.”

There were no objections from the audience. Along with help from local funny man Mark Turcotte, Moezzi kicked off the Emerge Film Festival with a screening of his documentary film, “NOWRUS: Lost and Found,” described as a “comedic journey into the Persian New Year.”

Comedic it was and, while nobody would describe Moezzi’s act as politically correct, the crowd of about 70 showed their appreciation both before and during the film.

“What you’re seeing,” Moezzi told them, “is three years of my life.”

That’s how long it took to produce the film, which features Moezzi and his cameraman out and about among the American public, trying to pin down just how much people know about the celebration of the Persian New Year.

Turns out they don’t know much at all, but that’s fine with Moezzi — in spite of his heritage, he didn’t know anything about it either, until three years ago. Until that point, he thought the main point of interest about being half-Persian was that it made for some fantastic pickup lines.

“Once you go Persian,” he told the audience, “there’s no other version.”

Equal parts groans and laughter followed.

Moezzi is the star of MTV’s hit show “Disaster Date.” His comedy has been featured on SHOWTIME, CNN, BBC and NPR, but his Thursday night appearance marked his first trip ever to Maine.

“It’s a great thing,” Moezzi said, ” to be able to say that I kicked off the Emerge Film Festival.”

Over the next three days, Emerge promises more than three dozen films, some hilarious, others poignant, a few landing somewhere in between. Not bad for a festival that was born out of desperation; it was created last year when the popular Lewiston-Auburn Film Festival fell apart after the arrest of its director. After the shock of that wore off, organizers scrambled to put together a new festival and Emerge came to be.

Before Moezzi took the stage Thursday night, Turcotte was there to loosen up the crowd. There he stood under the spotlight, dressed in a suit, his hair shining with product, before what was once the altar of St. Mary’s Church.

“I don’t belong here,” Turcotte said as latecomers made their way to seats. “This is God’s house. I’m a little worried about lightning.”

There was no lightning, just a rapid-fire string of jokes pertaining to air travel, marriage, therapy and the joy of coming to Lewiston for the big festival.

“I came all the way from Auburn,” Turcotte said. “There are sure some weird people on the other side of the bridge.”

The locals got it, anyway.

Thursday night wrapped up with a Comedy After Party at the Franco Center. On Friday, the festival gets rolling in earnest, with a collection of films by college students at 3 p.m., the world premiere of “Child of Grace” at 7 and yet another party to end the night.

Moezzi’s film has already won five out of eight contests entered around the world. One of those it failed to win was in Iran.

The fellow just wasn’t glum enough.

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