Carter made the call to pressure out the Shah and give the Ayatollah a chance
running things in Iran. Needless to say,
it did not work out well for his administration. Given his vehement prejudices, it was
probably grim consolation knowing developments in Iran were also bad for
Israel. This seems rather obvious, but the pre-revolutionary extent of
Israeli-Iranian cooperation and the size of the Israeli expat community will
surprise many who watch director Dan Shadur & producer Barak Heymann’s Before the Revolution (trailer here) during the 2014 New York Jewish Film Festival.
Israel’s old Iran hands note for Shadur, the Persians never considered
themselves Arabs. For the Shah, an enemy
of my enemy alliance with Israel was hardly unthinkable, but maybe not
something he would broadcast from the rooftops.
Still, before the revolution heated up in earnest, Israeli contractors
and assorted attaches socialized freely throughout Tehran. The Embassy even sponsored standing room only
outdoor screenings of Operation
Thunderbolt, the Oscar nominated dramatization of the Raid at Entebbe.
all changed rather quickly. While Shadur
only spent his infant months as an Israeli expat, friends of his late parents
recount in great detail how fast the welcome back was pulled out from under
their feet. Not surprisingly, many of
the talking heads in BTR demonstrate
Israel’s liberal inclinations, blaming themselves for not showing more
curiosity and concern for average Iranians’ living conditions. Still, at least one senior consular veteran
claims the Shah could have easily put down the uprising, but was blinded by his
paternalistic (or condescending) love for his people.
certainly convinces viewers when the living was good, it was quite a party in
Tehran for the expats. The film indicts
the Shah at every opportunity, obviously fearing it might be accused of trying
to rehabilitate the friendly authoritarian, yet ironically, it is hard to avoid
the conclusion the world would be a better place for everyone—especially
including Iranians—had he been emboldened to cling to power.
Regardless of its geopolitical analysis, BTR vividly captures the spirit of a
lost time and place and the Argo-like
intrigue of their final days in-country.
It also adds further dimensions to how viewers might think about Iran’s
place in the Bedlam of the region.
Recommended with mild quibbles, Before
the Revolution screens with Pur,
an excellent short documentary about the Soviet Refusenik experience, this coming
Monday (1/20) and Tuesday (1/21) at the Walter Reade, as part of this year’s
Labels: Documentary, Iran, Israeli Cinema, NYJFF '14