How It All Began
istory written by individuals who have their own personal and intel-
and perspectives. This preface is a history of my en-
gagement with the subject of Iranian cinema and its place in the world. It
is not my autobiography or my family’s history, but a cultural autobiography
about my contentious love affair—and that of other Iranians—with cinema,
Iran, and the West. As such it offers a microcosmic perspective on Iranian
culture and society during the second Pahlavi period and its transition to the
Islamic Republic.
I watched Western movies, made films, and taught and wrote about cin-
ema. My affair with cinema began early with a fascination with photography
and translations of Western novels, adapted to the screen. Like all love affairs
it had moments of disillusionment, misunderstanding, hostility, and betrayal.
Taking Photographs
I was born in the historic and magnificent city of Isfahan, and I roamed the
place with my father’s Kodak Brownie box camera. I remember the small
color image of the viewfinder and its sharp contrast with the resultant black-
and-white photos. That image was as vivid as a dream, like the single 35mm
color frames of American movies, which I used to purchase from street hawk-
ers in my hometown.
I acquired my own camera as a gift from our neighbor, Heshmatollah
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