Hamid Dabashi

Books

Image: Cover scan of the book "Parviz Sayyad's Theater of Diaspora: Two Plays"

Parviz Sayyad’s Theater of Diaspora: Two Plays

Edited with an Introduction by: Hamid Dabashi
Taylor & Francis, 1996

Order Now

Born in Lahijan in 1939, Parviz Sayyad was one of the leading actors and playwrights during his youth in Iran. In 1960, after the formation of Iran’s National Television, Sayyad and many others from theater joined its cast and started producing tele-theater shows until 1970. Sayyad and Apick Youssefian (who later with her daughter Mary Apick played in many of Sayyad’s films) were the leading characters of Iran’s first television series, “AMIR ARSALAN.” The show was quite successful and paved the road for Sayyad’s future career in cinema and television.
Theater of Diaspora

Parviz Sayad as Samad
Parviz Sayad as Samad

The following year Sayyad joined Parviz Kardan in another successful TV series called “SARKAR OSTOVAR”. This is where his famous Samad character was first formed. Samad became so popular that in 1969 with the help of Ali Abbasi, Sayyad directed his first Film “Samad and the Flying Carpet” using the same character. At the same time he continued producing shows for Iran’s National Television. Some of the most famous ones were Octopus, and DEAR UNCLE NAPOLEON (Taghvaii 1977).

Out of his homeland, Iran, film critics began acknowledging Sayyad’s work when they saw his first film in exile, THE MISSION, made in 1984. He, however, had written and directed more than a dozen films and appeared in most of them as the lead actor, back home, where he used to be a household name prior to the Islamic Revolution.

International Film Guide (1977), described him as “An extraordinary popular and vital member of the Iranian film world”, while Film Comment Magazine wrote, “in much of Sayyad’s work, he examines the lives of individual people caught up in political or social events which are beyond their control. In DEAD END (1976), Mary Apick plays a lovesick girl wooed by an eligible young man, only to find her suitor a SAVAK agent whose mission is to arrest her brother. In Shahid Saless’ celebrated IN DER FREMDE (Far From Home) (1975), Sayyad plays the part of a lonely Turkish immigrant laborer in West Berlin who is met with indifference when he tries to make friends with his German neighbors.

Sayyad’s professional life is in fact full of paradox and contradictions. Before the Islamic Revolution, he was one of the leading figures in the IRANIAN popular cinema, specializing in the role of a country bumpkin baffled by the ways of the big city. In 1974, he co-founded The New Film Group, a loose confederation of New Wave filmmakers, and used the money from his commercial successes to help finance the works of young and talented directors who could hardly find any backing in the conventional movie market. One of the last films he made in Iran, DEAD END, has a double distinction; its star, Mary Apick, received the Best Actress Award at the 1977 Moscow Film Festival, but the film was never publicly shown in IRAN, while the Shah was in power. The former action undoubtedly influenced the latter. The Islamic Regime’s reaction towards this film was not any better, of course. Although it was the first successful film shown after the Revolution, in a few months it had to be canned for good. This time, the contents was not the issue, but that the leading characters appeared in public without the Islamic veil, Chador!

After making a film deal in Germany, when the Revolution broke out, Sayyad figured he would not be welcomed back after his Tehran Little Theater was taken over by an Islamic radical group. This led him to a tiny Greenwich Village apartment where he quietly worked towards his Ph.D. at the City University, while awaiting his family’s return to him from Iran; and so the making of a low budget thriller like film, THE MISSION, became possible. THE MISSION, described by David Denby of New York Magazine as “the first Gandhian Thriller”, concerns the political awakening of a young assassin (Houshang Touzie) sent by a Moslem radical group to eliminate a former government official. It was an official entry in The Berlin Film Festival, The London Film Festival, and won The Jury Grand Prize at The Locarno Film Festival (1983).

Inspite of THE MISSION’s overall success, it took Sayyad four years to finance his second film in exile, CHECKPOINT, with the help of his long time artistic collaborator, Mary Apick. Meanwhile they produced a play, entitle Khar (Donkey) which was based on a short piece that Sayyad had written.

Sayyad, now working in Los Angeles directing Farsi-language stage plays and TV shows for the large Iranian exile community there, says that all his movies – with the exception of one that depicts the lives of an old couple (the woman wears a chador throughout)- are banned in the Islamic Republic. “Under the Khomeini regime,” he declares, “it seems that any independent productions are immediately banned, except for propaganda films. They have a Ministry of Art and Culture that does produce films, but these hardly ever get shown. At least during the Shah’s period, a film like THE CYCLE, which was a great movie, could be made. [Sayyad was co-producer of the movie.] We’ve forgotten about that period, but when we compare it to the present regime, it was like living in paradise.”

(From Parviz Sayyad’s official website at www.parvizsayyad.com)

« Return to Blog

Copyright ©2009-2017 Hamid Dabashi. All rights reserved.
Array ( [2] => Array ( [title] => [text] => "A leading cultural observer." Washington Post "Our most prominent intellectual." Shirin Neshat "Renowned Columbia University scholar on Iranian culture." Boston Globe "Spectacular, important, and incisive. Dabashi's work is crucial for our times." Zillah Eisenstein
Ithaca College, NY
"Hamid Dabashi lovingly writes about the history of Iran that teaches us how to understand a people overshadowed by the grand narratives of political (mis)representation." Gayatri Spivak
Columbia University
"You are with a humanist who deeply loves his country, and invites you to feel very much at home." Susan Buck-Morss
Cornell University
"Superb authority... Dabashi provides a tour de force on Iranian art, politics and culture." Shirin Neshat "Great erudition and imagination... bringing out rich aspects of Iranian culture that are little known or not recognized." Vanessa Martin, Royal Holloway
University of London
"Hamid Dabashi, is one of the most significant intellectual voices outside of Iran since the Islamic revolution." Shirin Neshat "A leading light in Iranian studies." The Chronicle of Higher Education "Cuts through the myths, past and present, that Americans have been told about Iran... presenting Iran's history through the lens of its literary cosmopolitanism." Susan Buck-Morss
Cornell University
"Magisterial." Houchang Chehabi
Boston University
"An important man in New York." Sir Ridley Scott "Much-needed in our troubled times." Gayatri Spivak
Columbia University
"Exemplary of a new Leftist discourse that is undogmatic and non-sectarian... open and intimate." Susan Buck-Morss
Cornell University
"Hamid Dabashi beautifully lays out the alluring dynamic between Iranian art and politics." Shirin Neshat "A rare cultural critic." Mohsen Makhmalbaf "Dabashi's passion and extraordinary vision, gives us the knowledge and commitment to stand against war and build the possibilities for peace and global justice." Zillah Eisenstein
Ithaca College, NY
"Hamid Dabashi's piercing revelations have been as instrumental in fashioning my own films as have Scorsese, Rossellini and Bresson." Ramin Bahrani "Superb and brilliant." Bruce Lawrence
Duke University
"Fresh, provocative and iconoclastic." Ian Richard Netton
University of Leeds, UK
"Learned... sparkles with verve and a sometimes punishing wit. Hamid Dabashi is the perfect guide." Edward W. Said "There are few better places to begin than with Dabashi's subtle and vividly presented wealth on Iran." Said Amir Arjomand
SUNY, New York
"Objective and empathetic... unlike many others on contemporary Iran." Ervand Abrahamian
Baruch College, New York
"Enthusiastic... clear and accurate... impressive." Oliver Leaman
Liverpool John Moores University, UK
"Original, creative and insightful." John L. Esposito
Georgetown University
"Extraordinary." Daniel Brumberg
Georgetown University
"Dabashi has an astonishing ability to range over some of the most complex issues of modern intellectual life." Sudipta Kaviraj
Columbia University
"If anyone can lay claim to Nima Yushij's statement that this world is his home, it is Hamid Dabashi. I want a very broad readership to know the quality of his writing and thinking, of his immense epistemic and historical scholarship." Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Columbia University
"Dabashi is learned, poetic, ranging from philosophy to film, every word written with a commitment to the possibility of a just world. I have worked with him in the past and will work with him again in the future." Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Columbia University
"Hamid Dabashi is one of the foremost exponent today of postcolonial critical theory, whose work deserves to be called post-colonial with all the multivalence of this description." Sudipta Kaviraj
Columbia University
"Hamid Dabashi's writings on Iranian culture and politics brilliantly re-imagine the rich heritage of a shared past and a conflicted present. His reflections on revolution and nationhood, poetry and cinema, philosophy and the sacred, are urgent, provocative, complex, and highly original." Timothy Mitchell
Columbia University
"Equally fluent in philosophical reasoning, literary interpretation, visual hermeneutics and writing with a rare combination of penetration and lyricism, Dabashi's work continues values of both modern critical theory and the highly sophisticated and subtle intellectual traditions of Iranian... reflection -- for both of which he is an wonderfully sympathetic reader." Sudipta Kaviraj
Columbia University
"Hamid Dabashi belongs to a marvelous tradition of poetic thinkers, whose deep insights are crafted in magnificent poetic prose." Gilbert Achcar
University of London
"Dabashi provides his readers with the wine of literary pleasure along with rich food for thought." Gilbert Achcar
University of London
"In Dabashi's work, post-coloniality does not mean a denial or denunciation of the modern European tradition of philosophy and social theory, but their effortless absorption into a larger, more complex reflection." Sudipta Kaviraj
Columbia University
[filter] => 1 ) [_multiwidget] => 1 )