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Tarzan among apes
Farhad Hakimzadeh and his Iran Heritage Foundation

April 9, 2005

Abbas Kiarostami’s close association with UK charity Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF), which is about to run a series of events in the great man’s honour in London, does not leave him unscathed from the charge that he is a cultural ambassador for the Islamic Republic of Iran, mixing as he does with powerful businessmen with interests in that country.

It does not help that Kiarostami has a reputation for sidestepping questions about politics by saying that art is ‘above’ them. (Pity no one told this to Picasso, Orwell or Ken Loach, the British socialist film-maker who collaborated with Kiarostami on the film Tickets.)

Meanwhile, IHF has been displaying its usual contempt for local talent. It recently refused, I am told, an application for assistance for the UK launch of Babak And Friends: A First Norooz, US director Dustin Ellis’s animation debut. Available on DVD in both Persian and English, the film falls well within IHF’s remit for support. Yet it did not even get a look-in.

Could the involvement of Parviz Sayyad in the film have anything to do with it? The actor -- a radical opponent of the Islamic regime -- along with Shohreh Aghdashloo lent his voice to one of the film’s central characters (literally as this film was made on a shoestring budget).

However, in the eyes of IHF and its managing director Farhad Hakimzadeh, Sayyad is a non-entity and so, by association, is young Iranian-American film talent Ellis. But what should we expect from Hakimzadeh? He is, after all, a self-appointed arbiter of Iranian culture with little distinction outside the circles of rich illiterates among whom he shines, a Tarzan among apes.

IHF’s mission statement says it is committed to “encouraging and supporting research, publication, and diverse activities of cultural or scholarly merit in a variety of related fields. This remit is interpreted generously.”

A year and a half ago Hakimzadeh and co saw fit to advertise a graduate banking internship through IHF’s mailing list. Since when -- Hakimzadeh might wish to explain -- has banking been more central to Iranian culture than a film aimed at children about Norooz? IHF’s remit is certainly ‘interpreted generously’.


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