Shahrzaad’s Tale is a story of a lost era and a forgotten star of pre-revolutionary Iranian cinema, a tale of a working class woman who against all the odds struggled and succeeded to become an icon in the mainstream popular culture of the 1960s-70s Iran. It is also the story of ‘Film Farsi’, a popular genre of Iranian cinema that has been neglected by the media, film critics and film historians. Following the Revolution of 1979, the film industry and its star-oriented culture became seen as a decadent, un-Islamic, westernized, amoral and corrupted form of entertainment.
Shahrzaad is the pseudonym of the early 60s popular Iranian cinema actor, Kobra Amin-Saidi. Having appeared in more than fifty feature films, 80% in which she had major roles, Shahrzaad saw her fortunes plummet dramatically after the revolution. Like many artists in the entertainment industry, Shahrzaad was banned from the silver screen and TV. Shahrzaad was also a published poet and a filmmaker. In fact, she was the first woman filmmaker in Iran who wrote and directed a dramatic feature film, Mariam & Mani (1977), before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Though many artists chose to leave the country or to stay and adopt a new lifestyle or career in the newborn Islamic Republic, Shahrzaad belongs to neither of these groups. As she puts it herself, "I was consumed by an overwhelming sense of fear and insecurity." She suffered a nervous breakdown and lost touch with friends and family. Today she is in her late-sixties, and after more than 30 years of being out of work Shahrzaad is a wandering homeless woman in search of food and shelter. In the last two decades she has sought very basic means of survival in the forests of Northern Iran where she lived for three years, or in southern provincial towns and villages where the cost of living is cheaper than in metropolitan Tehran. According to an online report, she was living in abandoned buildings there for the last a few years, occasionally working as a vendor, selling books on sidewalks, or as caretaker or cleaning lady.
-Feature length documentary
-Director, Producer: Shahin Parhami
-Production Company: Cinemashena, Eyesteelfilm.
-Iran, Canada, South Korea
"Parhami’s film is not a typical documentary portrait, but a moving meditative work in which the filmmaker is open about his interventions in the film and in which he makes room for a group of young female protagonists to hold their own interviews with the famous artist. Her emotional responses are not filled with resignation, but are a call for more engagement."
Read Shahin Parhami's interview about Shahrzaad's Tale on OFFSCREEN: