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
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
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’.