So as you all saw in the film, direction FEC has been thinking about Iran, studying Iran thinking about exile diaspora for quite some time. He is the person I certainly credit for inspiring the work that I do. And I know so many of you in the audience feel the same way. I hope generation of scholars really owe our trajectory to the work that you've done. And so we wanted to screen this film and ask you to join us because I think it's really important to understand the man behind the theory and kind of get to know him on a more one to one level. I was really lucky to meet Hamid at a early stage in my career, and your generosity and your openness to graduate students, is something that all of your students can remark upon. And we are all really grateful to you for that. He was a member of my dissertation committee, kind but thorough. And I think there is something to be said for how he weaves together his own experiences into his thinking about larger subjects at exile of diaspora of home and homeland. In his first book, making a big cell cultures about television and radio here in Los Angeles, many of you, I'm sure are familiar with, but in case you haven't yet read that book, I really recommend it. The after the colon makes it seem like it's just a book about television, don't be fooled. It's about so much more. It's about being an exile. It's about being in a diasporic community at the very early stages of that transition from exile to diaspora, and thinking about culture as a way to kind of contend with loss to contend with nostalgia, but also to contend with possibility. And so a lot of the things that he even mentioned the small kernels in that book, just like throw away footnotes, I've reread and thought, oh, my gosh, he observed something so precious. And so interesting that entire books were later written about that topic, right. But he was witnessing it early in his keen eye for observation, had a had a way of articulating what he was seeing, and even the smallest things. So one of the things that doctrine SBC has been working on since his retirement is his memoirs. They'll call you that. Okay. Hi, Meet John. One of the things he's been working on since retirement after his four volume tome was finally published in a social history of Iranian cinema, he has now been working on his memoirs. And so one of the things that we thought we might chat with you about is the process of, of thinking about that kind of project. This is a big project, just like you've had many big projects. But in your, in your 1993 book, in making of exile cultures, you use things like dreams and letters, personal experiences with your family, to then expand upon into some really deep theoretical material. And so I'm wondering, as you're, you know, thinking about your memoirs, and how you're writing them, how are you kind of also doing some of that work and staying with the experience, so to speak, rather than giving us all the more theoretical juice that we might have?
That's a very good question. I knew it was a challenge. And it is a challenge. I'm not finished yet, I have one more chapter that I'm working on. But like the other projects, this one has grown considerably. And the I have, on the one hand, and work in theory, on the other hand, I make things films, television, and those sorts of things, and also cartoons, as you saw in the film. But I also study them and it takes me quite a while and this process of creativity is one good way of sort of processing the information and also by sort of incorporating the questions that I have myself about myself into the, into the book or the film or whatever it is that I'm working on. So it's in some ways I'm looking for me in these books, I didn't like the the making of Iranian exile. My advisor said to me, I don't into this, because you're going to be branded as Iran specialist. And you know, only a few people really will read it. And I said, No, this is a, I want to know me. And the Iranians who were just coming into Los Angeles in large numbers, and they were producing really incredible diversity of art, and culture. And so, you know, I wrote about their radio shows I wrote about their film festival, about records that they made and the various TV shows that they produced, I went to all the goddamn TV studios, interview people, I was dog eared. And that's why you have to be when you do ethnographic work, you know, you just have to go after it. And I took notes. I just donated 100, and about 90 boxes, containing my research material, to Northwestern research library. So anybody who wants to dig into some of that archive, that's where you can go. Or as I collect that, somewhere around 285 or so, movie posters from Iran and Iranian films in diaspora, and again, I gave all of those to Northwestern archive, and they digitized all of them at high definition. So any of you who wants to use a frame for a lecture or for a book and so forth, I'm sure they have, they will take care of that. So it's, it's my everything that I've done, really an exile in a way the gift of exile was, that it threw me into not only dealing with the subject, but also dealing with myself, as I'm dealing with the subject. And that's why I have an almost in every book, there are personal introductions of various sorts, and so far. Now as to what I'm doing now, in the hemp war. In a way, the memoir is a sort of intensification of that personal agenda. And I have basically the structure that I've chosen is each chapter deals with the house in which I lived. And it's not so much about the physical house and so forth, although that's there as well. But it's about the, the life in the house, who was in there, what kind of activities took place, how children react, their work, how they were trained, how they were beaten up, how they, you know, whatever, and the culture that the children, the created and so forth, I mean, so each chapter deals with these things. And in the chapter my first chapter in the in the UK, being abroad, I went there in 1962. Oh, and I went to Lancaster of all places, the town in North of England. And I stayed in a boarding house, which was a you know, beautiful, big house, but it reminded very much of Hitchcock's film. The guy who became my nominal guardian, was a large, joyous person. This looks very much like Churchill, bald head and voluble flesh, on her on his face, except he was he couldn't walk. He had been hurt in the war, and yet he was walking with sticks with special sticks. And guess who picked me up at the train station in Lancaster, he drove there to pick me up and to pick to take me there. And I had a fantastic room above his room. And this is where I learned to appreciate offer. He played his opera all day, on his tape recorder very loud. I could hear it through the roof through the floor. And so that's But anyway, it was my first experience in a very strange place. We had two maids, one of whom constantly seemed to be masticating and the other one who was definitely crazy mumbling to herself all The time running up and down and so forth anyway, so that's so that that gets the chapter or the that night and deal with my first
Dorm Room in Los Angeles at USC. And it is a different that a guy very nice guy, Tom Ashlyn, who was a political scientist and who, whose parents lived in San Bernardino. And I became a guest in their house. I had a friend of theirs and they invited me I was alone. So I would I had read BW that you saw in the film that was I drove with that car to sample in New York, at the city of Redlands, and stayed with them, and they became my second family. And then no, this is no, not yet. Then I was in Iran one summer. And I heard about a guy on top of the Texas University tower, shooting down at people killing 15 people. And Tom was one of them. He was there in the summer, because he had because of his the power of friendship, he had become interested in going to Iran with Peace Corps. And the program training program was at UT Austin. And so I felt socially and so bad that if he had not met me, he would not be alive. And so I took a trip to his parents, family, and I found a completely devastated family. I mean, it was a very tight knit Catholic family that has six or seven kids and they were just in tatters. So I didn't have the mother became alcoholic, I'm just terrible. Anyway, that's the another aspect of American culture that I experienced the kind of violence, wanton violence that you'll see. And then one more anecdote about. I had just finished undergrad and I was entered into grad school in the film production department. And so I moved into this commune called Ellis Island, which was near USC campus. And it generally was a big three story house with lots of rooms and so forth. Very nice looking. And the people who live there were most of these students but not necessarily all of them. And they were white kids, they were also a lot of international students or persons from, from France, from northern European countries, from Spain.
And there we have various rooms that we get get together in the backyard, setting fire, making fire, and then smoking, grass and other things that were the rigor. But I had a friend across the hall from my own and David Denton, who was an English student and who had inherited a huge amount of money from his parents and he used to smoke dope a lot. And and he actually supplied talk to everybody practically, we used to gather in his room, listen to the doors and other people playing music while smoking and talking and so forth. And I have a film called Ellis Island that has some of these things in here. That's my NFA film project. But you know, another example of the kind of
thinks he shot himself. He was going to a shrink, the only one I knew who had gone to shrink and who constantly gave him Thorazine and other kinds of downers and so forth and he was just terrible. Anyway, these are examples of the experience. I had with during college days there. And so Ellis Island became a home for me for some time and then I'm Yes, then yes, then, yeah, I guess I should say. So I went to, I went back to Iran after I got my MFA. Because of the that what became free university of Iran was then only a project. There were five of us first. And so we started planning the university, we went to England, to study to see what Open University had done, what structure they had on. So we created this very novel idea of creating a long distance university that was not just correspondence, but also had television and radio programs. And as you saw in the film, science kits, and so forth, so it was really very, very, very innovative for a country that was so vast that not everyone could go to universities in this way. Students didn't have to leave their village to study college, they could study college, if they had access to TV, radio and post office. And there were 20 study centers where students could go and check their life, check out books from library there, or visit with tutors, who were residents there. I mean, all of these were. I very much like I was personally involved in my films, I was personally involved in these kinds of works as well, he was a day at nighttime activity, I was in it all the time, as I am now in writing this memoir, which is interminable.
Ironically, I've come across so many people in Iran in the provinces who, you know, the daughters went to Azhar University in a very interesting way. It's like, I was at university as much as this changed and all of the permutations is there. And it is the largest university in Iran. And it's the universe that reached into the periphery in the provinces the most is a portion of the documentary, which was filmed, you know, at the festival that you began here. And it shows this amazing footage of this tension in between different communities outside of Iran. And then it's amazing moment where a woman experiences watching first time a film, I assume, and then talking about how this is a view of Iran, which she had never seen portrayed, you know, and it made her think, made her rethink her country and rethink her experience with the country. And that reminded me is like, you know, I was living in Iran a couple years after the Green Movement. And I liked every time I'm in Iran with it, go see usually kind of a mass produced film, a film for the end of a popular film, and then try to see some art films. And there was a new cinema in northern Tehran, the Tony part of Tehran. And I remember going in, and there were two films being shown that boy, le Asghar, Farhadi and F. Raji, how are ya said, The Outsiders part three, which was a kind of a right wing, state supported very cynical, but very body film that was parroting the Green Movement and using legacies of the revolution and the war, to resonate, but also critique, you know, the Green Movement. And almost everybody bought tickets for F Raji has say, that relief was basically almost empty, you know, and I went and saw the film, I watched people watch the film, in many ways. And I said, this is quite interesting. And then I'm going to talk to my friend Ramin as a translator and a journalist, and he was talking in Tehran, he was talking about what he and many intellectuals and translators in the intelligence of Tehran of his generation got from Iranian film, those who lived in Iran, and they said something very similar to what the woman here in LA said, is that they saw in Iranian films, things that they themselves could not see in Iran, meaning in many ways, the public film, the film that was being shown to the public, showed things that they did not see themselves, in interacting with other people in Iran. So in many ways, I mean, you know, your work on film allows us as there's a voluminous work on history and social history of film, in what ways the film both, you know, connect to the Aspera and what was the diaspora change Iranian film
you having a number of sort of new wave cinema directors, who began making films in Iran and basically change the Iranian cinema off or add it to the The so called film Farsi genre of that was popular in Iran and created the new wave. arthouse cinema. I had studied abroad like in Adarsh mercy we went to UCLA there were several others who have been had studied in France or Germany's you can sort of shade solid had studied in Germany. And so that, that that I think was a was a fresh, truly a new wave in Iranian cinema when those films that traveled to for international festivals and won awards, and they created more impetus to the for filmmakers to come then they were also Iran developed its own film schools, and the Iranian where I taught actually I taught at two semesters of documentary filmmaking in, in, in the school that was part of the radio, Iranian Radio Television Network, where a lot of filmmakers were trained, and then they, they began to make films for the TV channels and so forth. So as the media increased to broadcast things, more people began to supply materials for it. So they didn't only buy Western stuff and adapt them into Persian local pool of talent was developing and, and that was important then the diaspora Iranians, the young people who came here and went to film school and stayed here also created a very active cinema somewhere, or the UCLA during the time that I was going here was Rachel Yan, who made one good film, but that was it. Who else was here? Oh, shucks. Well, I'll remember it when it's too late. But the Iranian diaspora, filmmakers were very important in any really making. And they did not necessarily make Iran related films like Shahid saw less didn't make almost anything about Iran, in Germany, but about Turkson in Germany or about other subjects. So this reciprocal relationship between Iran and ask for I think was a very fecund thing. During the shots time, after the revolution, it continued even more, because the exile population increased tremendously. And media became more important channels all over the place, and so forth. So it became a legitimate, honorable profession, and it was no longer advocacy and those kinds of debased professionals.
Were, we have about 15 minutes left. So I want to make sure we have time for you all to ask questions. So if anyone has a question, would you mind coming to the mic here and asking it so that everyone can hear you?
First of all, I want to thank you for starting the Iranian Film Festival here at UCLA. It was my first exposure to Iranian film, and it was in 1986, my friends and I, we were standing in in a huge line, you know, to get in and to see the movies. And to this date, we talk about good old days UCLA had it Film Festival, and I mean, later on, it moved, but we still, you know, think about the period that it was there. So I want to thank you for that. My question has three parts. Number one is when was the last time you were in Iran? Number two, what kept you from going back and visiting a number three? Is it something you're going to consider in the future?
Thank you. The last time I went to Iran, I went with Kelly and our two kids. And that was the remember 2000 And somebody's fought and the the last time that I was to go there, Hillary sort of mentioned very short not to hit I was invited to go to the cinema very tasty Festival, which is the premier Documentary Film Festival in Iran and I had a sceptred. And we, as I mentioned to somebody earlier, we had Kelly and I had bought our ticket at the field, a whole suitcase full of presents for my family, and ready to go. So we were in bed, sleeping at two o'clock, somebody called me from Iran, and the cinema, from the cinema Verity festival and said, this is about two hours before we were to, to get on the plane, we recommend that you're not calm. That says one of those Kafka risks situation where the person who invites you copywriters recommend that you're not calm. Why? Because we were told that you may not be able to leave the country. And that's sort of, in some ways that sort of made me exile. Because I couldn't return any more up to that point. I've gone to Iran a number of times, several times and stayed and done some research and interviewed people, so forth, but with this situation. There you have it, and I have since then visited with my family in third countries. But you know, in terms of access to the country, and to its culture, friends over this. It's it's Yeah.
Let me ask a question fast about media. I mean, you know, you you've made major contributions to media studies, not film as a form of media, but other forms. And I was recently rereading your essay from 20 years ago, I was living in Iran during the Green Movement, and you were commenting on the type of media media used during the greenroom, and afterwards to do politics. And it's a good essay to read in the present moment, because on the one hand, it's a celebration of the democratization of do forms of media that it gives access and expands, access to new voices and expands what we can call what you call the public sphere. And in public sphere, people who didn't have a voice have a voice. On the other hand, it's pressured. For those who say, this is all new. I remember these feelings back then that How did you know what you saw was true? How did you know what you saw was representative? How did you know that the voice speaking in the media, was communicating something trustworthy? You mentioned all of these observations, and I read it with, you know, encapsulated the feelings I had back then, you know, and the feelings I have had now that we many of us have had, as we've experienced, this upsurge in Iran again. So not asking anyone to not ask you to recap. So, you know, retail is that article, but, but, you know, given your, I would say, you know, just very astute way of seeing how media is both a tool and a weapon, and a mode of democratization as well as obfuscation, you know, is that is there something that you can share with us your reflections as you've, you've lived through the last, you know, six to nine months?
Well, I guess a little bit of background is germane here, in terms of the media that Iranians turn to. So and there's the evolution, evolution, again, as movies for cinemas, we're on 35 millimeter for documentaries and television are usually on 16 million or so forth. But with the advent of video, suddenly a kind of democratization took place after a while at first only big people who had a lot of money could buy the video recorders and so forth, but eventually it became very popular and people recorded the things on real real first and then cassettes. So we, in those days, the the the cassette recorders allowed democratized video in ways that film couldn't because for film, you had to send it to a laboratory to process it, and then pay for it and then edit it afterwards and so forth. But for a video, you'd recorded it and then you could play it back yourself. But if you wanted to distribute it, then you would have to go to somebody to do it. But in order to see it yourself, you didn't have to take it to a laboratory so video made it a very home bound, personal instrument and And so the This made it handy for some of the revolutionary film making Super Eight was around as well. But now I think the the digital the digitalization and globalization has created a situation where, you know, every cell phone has a camera, and every cell phone is a broadcaster, potentially, to send the material to elsewhere. And so it this is, I think an incredible change and development. But how do you control the messages of millions of people who are producing stuff and uploading it to the internet? And how do you you know, there's no content control, so to speak, or? And that's, I think, partly, perhaps the reason that some of these conflicts are developing is that you know, different versions of reality are put out and it's confusing. It's, and so people maybe go with a dominant ideology or a party, thing, affiliation they have or, or trust somebody else, because they have no way of judging, you know, what is true in Iran right now. And the government lies on the other hand, through its official says, word casting and media, the people who are in the streets and recording and so forth, it's there's so many and so many of our untrained and it's just you know, not every little diary note that you write in your diary deserves to be shown publicly. And, and some of the footage that people shoot are these kinds of things. So
they're questions from you all.
I'm John I, I've been here my name is option, method, number, UCLA. Person also, and I was in at 1986, I came here, you were ahead of me are almost finishing. So I don't want to go back to all the accolades and everything. You mentioned. You're writing your autobiography. And I wanted to ask you this kind of a ultimate question of because you're a guru, you're a wise man, you can answer it. Why would one do this? What's the reason for doing it and yawn? And does being a diasporic person make it more likely? It doesn't make you more reflective? I know, this is long answer. But clutter
is a wise man. He's a guru, you just said it.
No, I mean, that's a good question. You know, why? why anybody would want to read my story. And I want to read it, too. It's, it's, yeah, it's because it's partly self discovery, search for who I am, who I have been, and so forth, but also this discovery of life's meaning, and perhaps passing something down to other generations. So that people also see the conflicts, the issues, the uncertainties, the doubts and so forth, that at a scholar has, who has published a number of books as a well known and so forth, but that person is also inside has a little boy who was was you know, beaten or was the molested or whatever, you know, all of these things are, are are part of who, what is and in some ways, if if one cannot improve self understanding, by in the profession and one has, I mean, I can't imagine doctors may not be able to do that as much but we are lucky that we are in an expressive line of work. And we can write things We can write poetry, we can write books, we can make cells, and so on and so forth, make music and so forth. And so we should use that to understand ourselves and understand the group to which we belong the nation or whatever. Keep on tracking
and we can do it all. So I look forward to your dueling tomorrow. The counts. I look forward to seeing all the pieces tomorrow. Thank you so much.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai