The moment Madonna handed an Oscar statue to Asghar Farhadi in late February in front of an estimated 39 million Americans, you knew 2012 was going to be a special year for Iranians. It was a year to share with the world the creativity that Persians embody and to embolden their public image. Farhadi had already created a buzz when he delivered a heartfelt victory speech at this year’s Golden Globe Awards. His humility and grace in describing Iranians as a “loving people” captured the attention of a myriad of Iranians displaced in different parts of the globe. The success of “ A Separation” not only captured the praise of Hollywood but gave a new found sense of a fashionable identity Iranians have been lacking. With so much attention focused on the hostilities in the Middle East, and unresolved tensions between the Islamic Republic and the US Government, it is a dawn of a new day for the Iranian diaspora seeking creative equality. Inga Bahrami an engineer from Orange County adds, “It is refreshing to see a new turning point in how Iranians are perceived in the media.” Bahrami adds “The art, culture and the Persian mystique that we know exists deep in our roots has not been shared with the world.” 2012 has been a year where Iranians have won a Golden Globe, an Oscar, several other prestigious film awards and have their own TV show on Bravo in “Shahs of Sunset”
It is refreshing to see Farsi being spoken, even it its most pretentious of stages on Bravo TV, with the Ryan Seacrest produced show, “Shahs of Sunset.” The press has been all too negative for the new show which follows the emotional trials and tribulations of a group of LA based Iranian Americans. However, it is still interesting to hear “Heyvoun bazi” and “Chetori” on primetime TV. Despite the heavy focus on materialism and a competition to see who has a more glam friendly palate, as was the case in last Sunday’s episode where there was a game to see who can differentiate between Crystal champagne and the CVS aisle brand, there is still a forum for Iranians Americans to be expressive. The image they might be painting to the Bravo TV audience is not one that depicts a Persian culture rich in tradition and history; a tradition symbolized by the current Nowrooz festivities. However, it is still a forum of expression better than anything related to an nuclear arms race, or hostilities with the West.
The last twelve months have also seen several Iranian Americans achieving more Hollywood stardom. Nasim Pedrad, an Iranian-American from Irvine, California, is a regular cast member on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Her comedic prowess has captured the attention of SNLs creator Lorne Michaels, who has enabled Pedrad to display her versatility. Not just roles limited to Middle Eastern stereotypes (despite a sketch playing Ahmadinejad’s wife) but also important roles with heavy dialogue in regular sketches
Also, the Ryan Gosling crime thriller, Drive was written at the hands of screenwriter Hossein Amini, who was once nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award for the 1997 film, The Wings of the Dove. Amini’s Drive, was a critical and box office hit, and is also receiving a cult following. The story follows Gosling as a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver, and also becomes involved in a dangerous romance.
The Todd Philips (Hangover) produced high school party comedy Project X is directed by Nima Nourizadeh, a British-Iranian director who is best known for his music videos and has now crossed over to feature films.
Ramin Djawadi, an Iranian-German composer of orchestral music has been at the forefront of creating music for several high profile studios; with films including, Safe House, Iron Man, and Clash of the Titans.
There have been other Iranian American actors and actresses appearing in important roles, including Shohreh Agdashloo in 2003’s House of Sand and Fog, where she was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award. Shaun Toub, another prolific actor with wide range has also garnered notable and steady roles.
Persians are seeing Hollywood calling today not just for typical Middle Eastern stereotypical roles that are needed to fill a void in a character driven feature film but to also display the wide range of acting, writing, comedic, and musical talents that they encompass. The core creativity not limited to a role for a hijacker or antiterrorism expert is being brought in full force and will continue to grow in the coming years.
Iman Sadri is a cosmetic dentist and writer based in Irvine, California. He is a graduate of NYU and he covered the Sacramento Kings for The Current at American River College. He is a Kings beat writer for bleacherreport.com and sactownroyalty.com. He is a cultural and entertainment contributor for Persianmirror.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org