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Before the Revolution – Jews in Iran

btr_poster_final_lowres_13.4.13A 60 minute documentary on the position of a section of the Jewish community in Iran during the 70s. It’s long been discussed how the Jewish in Iran have always thrived, so much so that even today, despite so many upheavals in government, social changes and conflicts of interest between 10-35,000 still populate the country. Iranian resident film producer Haroun Yashyaei tells visitors and reporters the Ayatollah “Khomeini didn’t mix up our community with Israel and Zionism,” and “Take it from me, the Jewish community here faces no difficulties.” (1) Although historically there have been restrictions on the Jewish community they have enjoyed periods of great affluence and freedom, about which this documentary is made.

Iran’s Jewish community has long been represented in parliament and they have a historical presence in the country that dates back to the early Testament. But what of the Israeli professionals and their families that came over in the “boom” during the reign of the Shah, working the guns trade and providing aspects of Iran’s civic structure in exchange for oil? Did they play a part in the revolution they witnessed? The director Dan Shadur thinks not, and calls the Israeli community of 70s Iran ‘blind’.

Here’s the film’s own synopsis:

During the 60’s and 70’s thousands of Israelis are living in Tehran, enjoying a special relationship with the Shah and his dictatorial rule.

Protected by large arms deals and complex financial ties, the Israeli community enjoy a wealthy and luxurious lifestyle; failing to note that the corrupt and despised ruling power to which they are connected, is collapsing.

By the time they understand that their ‘Iranian Paradise’ is turning into hell, it is almost too late, and they stand to find themselves in the middle of the Islamist revolution, due to take Iran by storm.

Using rare archive footage, interviews with diplomats, Mossad agents, businessmen and their families, the director – whose family had been part of the very same community – reveals a new perspective on the revolution that changed the world.

What starts as a nostalgic look at a lost era, becomes a thrilling story where huge dreams are shattered in a dark reality of greed, blindness and lust for power.

btr_022__israel_broadcasting_authority_archiveShadur says “I understood that our family story was only a small part of a large-scale cooperation that had existed between two countries, that today are fierce enemies. The revolution – that had always been described to me as a dark force that expelled us from paradise – originated as an uprising resulting from years of oppression; and that best case, we as Israelis had been blind to this, or worst case, had actively participated in.”

The film (which incidentally copies its title from a famous film by Bertolucci) is in Hebrew with English subtitles and is produced by Barak Heymann. It was made for yes Docu, Israel and is funded by Rabinovich Foundation, Gesher Multicultural Film Fund and Israel Lottery Council For Culture & Arts and is currently on release.

(1) Published on the Christian Science Monitor website