Roozbeh Dadvand’s short film about the legendary Iranian Prime Minister
The year is 1959. Six years after a CIA-backed coup-d’état (Operation Ajax) in 1953, in which the Iranian Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh was deposed and the Shah reinstated after a brief departure, the former politician and national hero is a sick and ailing man under house-arrest. Having risen to an intolerable level of popularity among the Iranian people for his nationalisation of the Iranian oil industry, among other things, the Shah upon his return convicted Mossadegh of treason, and confined him to a house in Ahmadabad, a remote suburban area north of Tehran.
Written and directed by Iranian-American filmmaker Roozbeh Dadvand, Mossadegh, a 24 minute-long film, provides a glimpse of the former Prime Minister’s last days in Ahmadabad.
Placed under extreme supervision, Mossadegh’s health is failing, and as such, his son – a doctor himself – intervenes to have an American physician (a fictional character) provide him with proper treatment. Although at first the authorities are reluctant to agree to any sort of intervention, they eventually give in, and allow the American to take up residence in Mossadegh’s house.
Having been overthrown by the CIA, Mossadegh is naturally skeptical of Americans, and throughout the film refuses to cooperate with the physician. ‘Given that Mossadegh was overthrown by American intelligence forces, I intended his interaction with the American doctor to explore issues of trust between the two men and to symbolize the distrust between the two nations’, says Dadvand. Eventually, however, the fallen hero gives in to the doctor’s requests, and accompanies him on a visit to a nearby hospital to undergo various tests.
The film is incredibly interesting in the sense that it is the first film made about the Iranian Prime Minister released in the West, and that it was realised with so few resources. According to Dadvand, the film was a project he worked on with his fellow students at the University of Southern Carolina. Having been part of the official selection of 10 major international film festivals, such as Raindance, the Boston International Film Festival, and the London Lift-Off Film Festival, Dadvand and Co. definitely have something to be proud of.
What’s even more inspiring is the fact that Dadvand was born and raised in the States, and has only visited Iran several times. ‘… I had never even heard the name Mossadegh until 2003, when I read Stephen Kinzer’s All The Shah’s Men, which is one of the more well-known biographies on Mossadegh and the inner workings of the 1953 CIA coup’, Dadvand notes.
Mossadegh represented the last true hope for democracy in Iran
However, that’s not to say that Dadvand isn’t an authority on the subject. In order to muster up the confidence to produce a film about such an important national figure and cultural icon, Dadvand spent almost three years reading books on Mossadegh, by Iranian, European, and American authors to obtain as much a well-rounded perspective of the story as possible. As well, in 2007, Dadvand even travelled to Ahmadabad, visited Mossadegh’s house, and had the chance to speak with some of his relatives.
‘Mossadegh represented the last true hope for democracy in Iran. Of all I’ve read regarding Mossadegh – including the negative propaganda – I’ve found him to be one of the very few political leaders of the last century who did not have a corrupt bone in his body.’
When asked about why he chose to produce a film about Mossadegh in particular, Dadvand cites his inspiring character, his tragic downfall, and how his story forever altered the course of Iranian history as key motivating factors. ‘The more I read about Mossadegh, the more I felt connected to my own cultural heritage as an Iranian American,’ says Dadvand. ‘Though one cannot say for sure, had Mossadegh been able to remain in power, it is possible that the course of Iranian history may have changed for the better … as a member of a growing Iranian diaspora, I therefore feel personally connected to the history and consequences of Mossadegh’s story.’
Rarely do I come across first generation Iranian Americans who are so proud of their culture and heritage, and as such, Dadvand’s passion for Mossadegh and his story is incredible.
‘I think Mossadegh is certainly relevant today. On one level he is relevant because his overthrow is a prime example of how meddling in a foreign government can reap terrible consequences in a region even several decades later,’ Dadvand states.
‘On another more positive level, Mossadegh remains relevant because his life and ideals still live on in the Iranian people … it is especially during these times that we should remember and be inspired by the virtues of the heroes of the past.’