Wakan Films' Documentary


Persians in America

Wakan Films is proud to be producing a documentary, planned for world television broadcast, about Persians in America.

Multi-award-winning producer-directors Khashyar Darvich and Dennis Aig are producing a documentary about Persians in America, their struggles, experiences, and their strength and resourcefulness as a culture.

There has never been a television documentary about Persians in America, and Khashyar Darvich and Wakan Films want to present an accurate and human portrayal of the Persian People to the world television audience. We want to accurately represent Persians who are greatly misunderstood and often unfairly characterized

Production is expected to begin in 2000, and the film should be ready for broadcast at the end of 2000.

Below, you will find different information about the project.

We are seeking either investment in the documentary, or donations.


TO Wakan Films Documentary MAIN PAGE

Summary of this page:




Summary of Documentary about

Persians in America

(please note: The below summary of the planned documentary about Persians in America is composed of ideas for the documentary by Khashyar Darvich and Wakan Films. Some of these ideas will be used, and some will not be, but this summary is intended to be a guideline of what the film's content will be. Of course, like all documentaries and other creative projects, the content of the documentary will be shaped by what interviewees say, and the spontaneity of what the producers and directors discover while they are in production.)

 Even though Iran is one of the most important and enigmatic influences on late Twentieth Century America, and Iranians are one of the most misunderstood new immigrants in the United States, there has not been a documentary about Persians in America.

Iranians total over one million in the United States (which includes a substantial Iranian Jewish population), and are the third largest ethnic group in the Los Angeles area (following white and Hispanic people). 500,000 Iranians live in and near Los Angeles, resulting in L.A.'s nickname as "Little Tehran." And yet, they are one of the most misunderstood ethnic groups in this country. Iranians are considered terrorists, oppressors of women, and in other unappealing ways.

In reality, however, Persians in America are one of this country's newest immigrants, as were Italians at the turn of the last century. In fact, the influx of Iranians in America parallels the immigration of Italians, and many of the same questions and issues that applied to Italians and other earlier U.S. immigrants, also applies to Persians who came to America in the last 20 years.

Iranians are the little understood new Americans.

Before 1979, 90% of Persians who came here because of school, and most of them returned back to Iran. But many Iranians were displaced from their country after the 1979 Islamic revolution, when the Shah of Iran was displaced by the Ayatollah Khomeini. There was a mass emigration of Persians from Iran to many European countries, but especially to the United States, which was familiar to many Persians who had studied there and developed relationships with the country. And many Persians took a great amount of wealth with them, that was generated during the Shah's rule.

But an identity issue arose, for Persians, who left Iran and often were not able to return because of political reasons. Many Persians in America became a people without a national identity-- they were raised in Iran, but were living in a country that was culturally foreign to them. Many Persians had trouble adjusting, and felt like people without a home. Because of the differences of culture, they often did not know how to act, or what to do culturally.

And to contribute to Persians feeling uncomfortable and out of place in their new country, many Persians, like earlier American immigrants, had to deal with prejudice and discrimination. As a result of the 1980 hostage crisis in Iran, The U.S. government and media often portrayed Iran and Iranians as terrorists. Movies like "Not Without My Daughter" contributed to such images. It is difficult for people to disassociate the actions of a government with the beliefs and identity of its people, and in most cases, the people of Iran, especially those Iranians living outside of Iran, almost overwhelmingly disagree with the actions of their current government. But, nevertheless, many Americans hold a negative view of Iranians. The fact that many Persians born in Iran speak with accents and have different cultural beliefs also contributed to Persians feeling out of place.

The history of Iranians in America is quite interesting:

The earliest Iranian in America was in 1850's, when a Whirling Dervish simply named "The Traveller," as part of a Sufi-like sojourn around the world, travelled across The United States on an Indian passport. He wrote a book about his travels (which is available only in Farsi) which, in part, talks about his experience of American culture and of the American people. He applied for an American passport, which were easy to obtain in the late 1800's, but was rejected (ironically, like many Iranians who apply for American visa's today).

In the 1880's, America protestant missionaries came to Iran, and started a school and a college, both of which are still being used today, but have been converted. In 1920's, Persians had a much more extensive contact with the U.S. after Iran hired Americans to straighten out Iran's finances and oil industry. Once oil was discovered in the region, the United States and the rest of the west had a strong interest in Iran.

There are many interesting aspects of Persians in America that a documentary can cover, to address how Iranian immigrants assimilate into America's melting pot:

Perhaps, a documentary can follow new Iranian immigrants as they enter into the U.S., discovering why they came, whether it was for political asylum (which many Persian former government officials still use to come to the U.S. today), or perhaps they are here to join their families and enjoy the better economic conditions here, compared to the difficult financial situation in Iran.

We could hear from the immigrants what the immigration and naturalization processes are like, as well as what they see as culturally different in the U.S. Persian immigrants come from a country of few political choices, to one of many personal choices, almost too many choices for some Iranians, and they don't always understand how to apply their newly acquired personal freedoms in a useful personal way.

Perhaps the main body of this documentary can address the differences in cultures:

Ideas of sexuality and marriage are different. Marriages in the Iranian culture are almost always more committed and longer lasting than in American marriages. Sexuality is less often talked about so freely, and the family is the foundation of a Persian person's life.

The film could also follow a Persian family in their home in America, and discover how they retain their Persian culture, while still adapting to American way of life. Many Iranians in America retain a great deal of their culture, i.e. food, pieces of art in their house, language. Often, therein lies the identity issues for Persians: how much of their Persian culture do they retain, and how much of their new American ways do they adapt?

Women in Persian society is also an important issue with Iranians here. Iranian women can be interviewed (including Iranian feminists) and asked about the differences in cultures and how women are treated. Are women free in Iranian culture? Some Iranian women who come to the U.S. inadvertently threaten their husbands by the freedoms (that are unfamiliar to their husbands) that they take that are inherent in American culture. The perceived abusiveness and control of Persian men to their wives can also be addressed.

There is also a practice of purchasing wives from Iran or matchmaking (and even cases of men in Iran paying women in America to secure a greencard through marriage, or even an arranged marriage). Some Iranians do arrange marriages in Iran, which is a common practice in Persian culture, and which has both advantages and disadvantages. Many Iranians who have adapted to the American way of life still sincerely advocate arranged marriages because of the level of commitment involved and other reasons.

It is interesting, how in a country like America where the unofficial religion is Christianity, and one of the official enemies is Iran, that many Persians are openly Islamic in the U.S. The documentary can address the western stereotypes of Islam, the religions true tenets and practices, and even show some of the practices by following a Moslem Persian. It would also be important to mention that there are also many other religious faiths amongst Persians in America, including Judaism, Christianity, and the Bahai faith.

There are also Persian Sufi's in America. Sufiism is a mystical branch of Islam. The Persian Sufi poet, Jalalludin Rumi, has become popular in America, having been translated and recorded on tape by poets such well-respected American poets as Robert Bly and Coleman Barks.

Will Iranians in America, unlike the Italian-Americans and even Native Americans, be able to retain their language and culture in a country that stresses the dominance and superiority of everything American? Or will they lose their language and heritage after a couple of generations? Perhaps we can help address this question as well as the way the American melting pot works by also dealing with what it is like growing up a second and third generation Iranian in America. Many Persian children raised in America do not speak Farsi, or have forgotten the language, although some Persian parents have emphasized teaching their children their native language. Perhaps, by examining the introduction of Iranians in America, we can learn more about how the American cultural stew is made and changes with each new ethnic introduction, as well as how the cultures that are introduced are changed, for better and worst.

TO Wakan Films Documentary MAIN PAGE