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Ardeshir Mohasses (1938-2008) was Iran's foremost political cartoonist, satirist, painter and illustrator. Drawing upon his intimate knowledge of Iran's culture, history, and sociopolitical situation, Ardeshir attracted the attention not only of the intellectuals, poets and writers of Iran of the time but also the international community. Filmmaker Bahman Maghsoudlou seeks to portray the beauty of Ardeshir's purpose and power in crafting his art to convey the plight of the oppressed, and his universal sense of justice and tyranny, expressed through a satirical visual history of Iran since the Qajar era. Interviews with prominent critics and friends are arranged to depict the nuances of Ardeshir's life: his time and career in Iran, his art and passion later in the United States, sources of his brilliant inspiration, his private reclusive moments, and his progressive political and social outlook. Ardeshir's various artistic endeavors are comprehensively covered, and viewers will see samples of his political cartoons, visual commentaries, and works for the New York Times along with his avant-garde style. This feature documentary admiringly displays the depth of Ardeshir's observations and his extraordinary free spirit.
Writer/Director/Producer: Bahman Maghsoudlou
Editor: Ghasem Ebrahimian, Tiffany Peckosh
Camera: Steven Gladstone, Pierre Khoobyar, Mary Latvis, Bahman Maghsoudlou, Mahdi H Nejad, Mahmoud Oskoui, Erik Shirai, Manouchehr Tabari
Still: Reza Deghati
Poster: Massoud Mansouri
With: Reza Baraheni, Ramsey Clark, Mohammad Ali Dowlatshahi, Esmail Khoi, Behrooz Moazami, Javad Mojabi, Nicky Nodjoumi, Shirin Neshat, Nasser Pakdaman, Bahram Rahmani, Majid Roshangar, Peter Scarlet, Abbas Towfigh, Ehsan Yarshater
Executive Producer: Bijan Maghsoudlou, Behzad Maghsoudlou, Bahman Maghsoudlou, Ardeshir Mohasses Trust
Iran/USA, Color & B/W, 60 Minutes, 2012
An IFVC Production
Ardeshir: The Rebellious Artist
When Ardeshir Mohasses began his second extended visit to the city of New York in 1976, leaving behind his homeland of Iran, he believed it was a temporary displacement. But when the Islamic Revolution broke out in 1978, Ardeshir realized he would not be going back to the land of his birth, possibly for the rest of his life. This belief proved to be true. The society that he had alternately loved and lampooned had finally reached a breaking point, and whether the new ruling powers turned out to be better or worse than those that had come before them, he realized he could no longer continue trying to find a place to create his art safely within that world.
Ardeshir had been drawing since as early as the age of three. Ardeshir had decided to study law and political science. But rather than put him on a different professional path, these studies instead ultimately contributed to his overall aesthetic. He had already enjoyed some commercial success as an artist, drawing caricatures of public figures and humorous cartoons about daily life for a magazine that specialized in such things. Gradually, as his style became somewhat less baroque, his subject matter, while never losing his satirical touch, became deeper and more grounded in Iranian history, its ties to current events presented in a more subtle manner. Having been influenced by a number of western artists in regard to his style, he was also influenced by them to begin collecting his work in book form. This enabled him to gain an international prominence by the end of the '60s and very early '70s unlike that of any other Persian artist before him.
In 1972, Ardeshir's friend Bahman Maghsoudlou, who, as editor-in-chief of Setare Cinema (Monthly Movie Star) and a series of books about cinema and theater called Vijeye Cinema & Theater, had included Ardeshir's work among that of the many intellectuals who contributed to those publications, decided to make a short film about the artist. Shot in a single day and aired on National Iranian television, Ardeshir Mohasses & His Caricatures became the one and only film ever made about this seminal Iranian artist. Mr. Maghsoudlou had long desired to expand the film, feeling there was so much more that could and should be said, and in 2008, inspired by the Mohasses exhibition held at the Asia Society in New York that year, he finally set out to do so. Regrettably, Ardeshir himself died in October 2008 at his home in New York City – meaning the original film would continue to stand as the only one in which the artist ever participated – but Maghsoudlou did not let this deter him from putting together an appropriate tribute to his friend, one of the most important artists ever to come out of Iran, and perhaps out of that entire part of the world.