Based on Dalia Sofer’s novel, Septembers of Shiraz begins in August, 1979, roughly 8 months after Mohammad Reza Shah was exiled from the most modernized nations in the Middle East after speaking up against the English government, telling Prime Minister James Callaghan, the British needed to go bankrupt and start over instead of accumulating new debt they could not pay off.
As Iran refused to help England, one of the world’s first empires was crumbling from pressures for economic reform and a return to Islamic authority by an Imam who would be known as the Ayatollah Khomeini, a cleric exiled to France that had the full support of American President Jimmy Carter. Once Mohammad Reza was ousted, Islamic revisionist historians erased everything that was established in 1941 by Reza Shah, turning Iran into an oppressive state.
As the story unfolds, a Mizrahi Jewish family send off their son Parviz (Jamie Ward) to Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts as they stay behind to endure the regime change from modernity to Sharia Law. Farnez (Salema Hayak) continues to hold on to hope that things will improve while her husband Isaac (Adrien Brody), a gemologist, expects things to get much worse, especially when he is arrested by the Revolutionary Guard under suspicion of being an Israeli spy, after traveling there to visit family and because of Farnez’s writings on the revolution as well as her international travels.
Isaac is imprisoned and tortured because of his wife’s “western propaganda,”prior to the revolution and being Jewish doesn’t help their cause. Some of the revolutionists had hoped to close the gap between the wealthy and the poor as the Middle Class had become non-existent, what came later was something no one had ever expected. A nation of paranoia, a people living with secrets and an existence of uncertainty.
Habibeh (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and Morteza (Navid Navid), embodies the example of the have-nots jealousy of those who have and those who have worked for it. The ideals of socialism and search for a balance between rich and poor that went in a completely different direction than anyone expected. Only one of the two seeks redemption and forgiveness while the is imprisoned because of their greed and thievery.
Where as Iran went the route of religion and finances, the United States faces the same divide with the dissolving Middle Class, however religion and finances aren’t our only issues, we added race to the mix, created even greater paranoia, something that hasn’t been experiences since the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement.
This is the first time since 1985 that the British Pound has been at its lowest, especially with their departure from the European Union as it collapses. Revolutions, uprising and wars that were set in motion by Carter and Callaghan have come to fruition and Septembers of Shiraz is a reminder that we are doomed to repeat history because we refused to learn from it.
Western eyes will think this film is about Anti-Judaism, but this wasn’t only a situation Persian Jews faced, Assyrians, Armenians, Azaris, Persian Zoroastrians and yes, Persian Muslims all feared what would happen under the establishment of Sharia Law, a disconnect from European powers and the lone Shiite ruled nation among a world of Arab Sunnis.
This is a story of economics, modernity versus theocracy. In our struggles financially, we grab on to traditions of some golden age we have idealized in order to cope with our current struggles. It looks like 1979 Iran and 2016 America aren’t that different after all.
Septembers of Shiraz is out now in limited release.
Septembers of Shiraz
Septembers of Shiraz reflects on a time in Iranian history that was dark for so many and separated one of the greatest contributors to Western Civilization from the rest of the world.