In Celebration of Bahram Beyzaie: A Stanford Conference
A conference to celebrate Bahram Beyzaie’s 10-year anniversary at Stanford University. Scholars from around the world gather (virtually) to discuss and reflect on Professor Beyzaie’s remarkable work and profound impact on the world of cinema and theater.
Pre-recorded Panelist Presentations
Panelist presentations are available via YouTube and embedded below. We hope you can view the presentations and join us for the live discussions with the presenters on July 29 and 30th. Join the Iranian Studies email list to receive updates.
Live Conference Panel Discussions
RSVP to receive Zoom link for both live panel discussions (the same link will work for both event days).
The event will also be simultaneously broadcast on YouTube Live. Please note questions for the panelists may only be submitted in the Zoom webinar.
July 29, Panel I (English)
July 30, Panel II (Persian)
Please note: some conference material is in Persian/Farsi and some is in English. If you need a disability-related accommodation for this event please contact us at iranianstudies [at] stanford.edu (iranianstudies[at]stanford[dot]edu). Requests should be made by July 16, 2021.
Film Tribute by Amir Naderi: Bahram Beyzaie: A Journey in Search of Identity (Persian with English subtitles available)
Keynote Address: Bahram Beyzaie According to Amir Naderi (Persian)
PANEL I (English): July 29, 10-11:30 AM Pacific Time (PT)
Chair: Saeed Talajooy
- Abbas Milani – Beyzaie’s Singularity in the Labyrinth of Iranian Modernities
- Negar Mottahedeh – Elemental Beyzaie
- Saeed Talajooy – Bashu, the Little Stranger: Shifting the Borders of Belonging in the Myth of the Nation (A Ritual of Exorcism)
PANEL II (Persian): July 30, 10-11:30 AM Pacific Time (PT)
Chair: Abbas Milani
- Sahand Abidi – The Approach Towards the Tradition and True Function of Criticism in Beyzaie’s Works
- Hamid Amjad – Beyzaie and the Origins of “Modern Characters” in Iranian Drama
- Jaleh Amouzegar – Mythical Characters from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh in Beyzaie’s Works
- Amirhossein Siadat – Patriarchy and Thanatos: Beyzaie’s Works as a Celebration of Life and a Critique of Patriarchy
- Mandana Zandian – Passing from Forgetfulness
Bahram Beyzaie – Concluding Remarks (Persian)
We are grateful to Nahid Ahmadian for her help in facilitating the Q&A sessions in each panel.
Bahram Beyzaie is one of Iran's most acclaimed filmmakers, playwrights, and scholars of the history of Iranian theater, both secular and religious. He was a leader of the generation of filmmakers known as the Iranian New Wave, beginning in the late 1960s, and has since directed more than a dozen prize-winning films. He has also conducted pioneering research into the roots of ancient legends derived from Indo-Iranian mythology and known collectively as A Thousand and One Nights. He is that rare artist who is also an erudite critic and scholar of his myriad crafts. Born in Tehran, Beyzaie was for many years the head of the Theatre Arts Department at Tehran University. His two-volume study of the history of Iranian theatre is still considered the authoritative account of this history. For the last ten years, he has been the Bita Daryabari Lecturer of Iranian Studies at Stanford University, has staged several of his plays, and given workshops on Iranian mythology and cinema. He currently teaches courses on Iranian theatre and cinema.
Sahand Abidi – The Approach Towards the Tradition and True Function of Criticism in Beyzaie’s Works
A study on Bahram Beyzaie’s revisionist attitude towards materials drawn from traditions, and the modernist and critical aspects of his work in making traditional frameworks problematic, and inventing constructions and new meanings (by reflecting on the “content of truth” in his creation through the collection of parts in the whole of an artwork). Additionally, the presentation discusses Beyzaie’s ironic look at history and his preparation for simultaneous rejection and absorption of the logic of myth, and the relation of past and present in autonomous theatrical arrangements.
Sahand Abidi is an essayist and critic. He studied drama at the fine arts faculty of Tehran University. He worked as a playwright, dramaturge, assistant director and actor in theatre, and taught courses on drama history. Sahand has worked in cinema and documentary movies as a writer. Many of his essays on aspects of modern Iranian theatre, cinema and literature (on Beyzaie, Chubak, Golestan, Kimiai, Nalbandian, etc.) have been published in various journals and books.
Hamid Amjad – Beyzaie and the Origins of “Modern Characters” in Iranian Drama
Making use of native cultural sources, mythical patterns and archetypes such as dragons and dragon-slayers, Bahram Beyzaie has introduced to Iranian theatre and cinema the concept and forms of the “modern character,” with its complexity and inward contradictions, intellectual functions and subjective acts. Beyzaie’s drama exposes the ancient faces hidden behind modern masks, and reconsiders past ways of thinking in the light of modern situations.
Hamid Amjad, PhD, is a writer and director of theatre and cinema; a novelist, researcher and scholar. He has published 21 plays, 3 novels, 20 short stories, 4 scripts, 3 historical research papers, and more than 100 critical articles.
Jaleh Amouzegar – Mythical Characters from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh in Beyzaie’s Works
A review of Bahram Beyzaie’s works that are directly based on stories and characters from Iranian mythology or ancient history—or those characters and narratives that have directly borrowed from Iranian myths or history, preserving their identities but appearing in altogether new form. And of course, in Beyzaie’s works, they have accepted this metamorphosis in form and meaning, and sometimes in both. With the assumption that Beyzaie’s mentioned works have been read or seen, the differences between his texts and the narration of an ancient myth or history are only briefly discussed.
Jaleh Amouzgar is a prominent scholar in the fields of mythology, history of religions, and pre-Islamic cultures and languages. She holds a PhD in Iranian linguistics from Sorbonne University in Paris and has taught at Tehran University for over five decades. Dr. Amouzgar has authored numerous books and articles on ancient Iranian mythology and languages. She has also published several translations of ancient Persian texts and a number of French scholarly works. She has received many prestigious awards including Iranian Book of the Year Award (1990), Lifetime Achievement Award by The International Society for Iranian Studies (2010), Ferdowsi Medal by Mashhad University (2016), and the Légion d'Honneur (2016).
Abbas Milani - Beyzaie’s Singularity in the Labyrinth of Iranian Modernities
Modernity has been the pivotal problematic of modern Iranian history, and the competing paradigms of its meanings, value, and the optimal path of achieving or rejecting it, has been a labyrinth of many temptations and illusions. The novelty of Beyzaie’s work is not just that he places the genealogy of Iranian theater squarely in the long theatrical traditions he mapped out, or unearthed, in Iran, but no less importantly that he liberated the dominant paradigm of aesthetic modernity from its Eurocentric obsession. His trailblazing modernity is not only in his formal innovations, his many new theatrical tropes, his ability to turn the forms of a passion play or the work of a street minstrel into a modernist masterpiece, nor is it in his singular polyphony in developing a language for modern plays; but in being relentlessly Iranian in roots and endlessly international in its nourishing sources.
Abbas Milani is the Director of the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies at Stanford University and a research fellow at The Hoover Institution. He taught at Tehran University, Faculty of Law and Political Science until 1986. He has written and translated many books and articles. Most recently, he edited and wrote the introduction for A Window into Modern Iran: The Ardeshir Zahedi Papers at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives, and Saadi and Humanism with Maryam Mirzadeh.
Negar Mottahedeh – Elemental Beyzaie
Drawing on the work of Stanislav Grof on holotropism and transpersonal psychology, this presentation considers the role of the four elements—earth, air, fire and water—and of the ta’ziyeh passion play in the mythic films of Bahram Beyzaie. The argument develops to underscore the ways in which the elements infuse Beyzaie’s films with the sense of the coevalness, that is the ever-presence of all cultures, past and present in Iranian history, and moves to demonstrate Beyzaie’s use of the tropes of the ta’ziyeh to root these disparate cultures in the national soil. The primordial female is here both witness and alchemist, calling into being a new way of seeing in film: a vision of the oneness of the world’s pasts and their continued presence.
Negar Mottahedeh is a Professor of the Humanities at Duke University. Her research on film, social media, and social movements in the Middle East has been published by Stanford University Press, Syracuse University Press, Palgrave, and Duke University Press and in WIRED magazine, Salon.com The Hill and The Observer. Dr. Mottahedeh’s work on the global culture of memes and selfies has been featured at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, and at TEDx. Her most recent book is titled Whisper Tapes: Kate Millett in Iran. Drawing on the cassette recordings of the American feminist Kate Millett during her post-Revolution trip to Iran in 1979, the book performs as the feminist's retrospective guide to the Iranian Revolution and the Iranian women's movement (Stanford University Press, 2019). Negar holds a PhD in Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society from the University of Minnesota and a BA in International Relations from Mount Holyoke College.
Amir Naderi – Keynote Address & Short Film
Amir Naderi’s career began in the 1970s, a turning point in Iranian Cinema. His raw, street level depiction of the ordinary man grappling with the realities of life in urban Iran heralded a new cinematic approach that continues to reverberate to this day. He also made several documentaries that demonstrated the depth of his abilities as a filmmaker. By the early1980s, Naderi’s films such as “The Runner” (Iran, 1984) and “Wind, Water, Dust,” (Iran, 1986) strengthened Iran’s standing in international cinematic circles. By the early 1990s, Naderi moved to the United Started to continue his work as an independent filmmaker. Since his departure from Iran, he has successfully made movies in the US, Japan, and Italy. His work has been the subject of retrospectives at museums and film festivals around the world, including the Film Society of Lincoln Center (New York), the Museum of Modern Arts, The George Pompidou Centre, Turin's Museum of Cinema (Italy) and at the Busan International Film Festival (Korea) among many international film festivals. Naderi has been the recipient of many awards and accolades from major film festivals around the world. His extensive filmography includes “Tangsir” (Iran, 1973), “Entezar” (Waiting, Iran, 1974), “Vegas: Based on a True Story” (U.S., 2008), “Cut” (Japan, 2011), “Monte” (Italy, 2016), and “Magic Lantern” (U.S., 2018), among many others.
Amirhossein Siadat – Patriarchy and Thanatos: Beyzaie’s Works as a Celebration of Life and a Critique of Patriarchy
This presentation focuses on two of Beyzaie’s recent works (Jana & Baladoor and Ardaviraf's Report) that were staged at Stanford university and attempts to show how Beyzaie’s theoretical methods have dramatized the dominance of ancient patriarchal culture over matriarchal culture. The presentation also tracks the contrast in the concepts of fertility and death-praising in some of his other important works like "The stranger and the fog,” “The Passengers,” “Ballad of Tara,” and “Destination.” This contrast is deep-rooted in the patriarchal culture and has also been the cause of several Iranian social and cultural issues. Ultimately, the article explains in what mechanism Beyzaie has always said “yes” to life and stood against death and death-praising culture.
Amirhossein Siadat holds a master’s degree in art studies and has been a critic and researcher of theatre and cinema for 12 years. He was the director of the cinematheque of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts from 2013 to 2019. He currently works as a curator for the Art and Experience Cinema.
Saeed Talajooy – Bashu, the Little Stranger: Shifting the Borders of Belonging in the Myth of the Nation (A Ritual of Exorcism)
An analysis of Bahram Beyzaie’s deconstruction of the reductive narratives of Iranian nationhood and their exclusionist representations of collective identity. This presentation argues that Beyzaie’s works deconstruct the narratives that impose a single conception of national identity on people and demonstrate how they alienate people, undermine the rise of constructive citizenship, and perpetuate the process of exclusion and marginalization. The presentation first explores the rivalling discourses that contributed to the formation of Iran’s constitutionalist nationalism and its monarchist archaist nemesis. It then reviews Beyzaie’s plays to highlight how he subverts narratives of nationhood by deconstructing their obsessive homogenizing discourses which marginalize, alienate and minoritize those who are different. The final section analyzes “Bashu, the Little Stranger” as a feast of rituals in which the soul of a nation is exorcised and redelivered so that one of the unacknowledged children of the nation, the Iranian Arabs, are celebrated as an essential part of the nation.
Saeed Talajooy is lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Persian Literature at the School of Modern Languages, University of St. Andrews. Dr. Talajooy has taught and published on literature, drama and cinema in Iran and the UK, and is currently teaching comparative literature and Persian literature modules. His research is on the point of convergence between cultural theory and literature, performance and film and on the reflections of the changing patterns of Iranian identities in Persian literature and Iranian theatre and cinema. His publications include articles on Iranian theatre and cinema, a co-edited volume entitled Resistance in Contemporary Middle Eastern Studies: Literature, Cinema and Music (Routledge 2012) and a special issue of Iranian Studies on Bahram Beyzaie. He is currently working on a monograph entitled Contour in Time: The Cinema of Bahram Beyzaie.
Mandana Zandian – Passing from Forgetfulness
In Bahram Beyzaie’s work, the idea of self-knowledge is intermingled with history and culture and often takes the shape of a journey from a mental point of zero. To him, writing includes an interface between widely accepted contemporary ideas and vaster historical narratives, on the one hand, and a fundamental trajectory that moves self-recognition toward greater proximity with cultural and historical questions, on the other. Within a more inclusive vision, his works set forth unavoidable questions in a precise language in the context of forgotten cultural discourses wrapped in single solid responses, in a discourse that has yet to be submitted to perennial rethinking. This presentation is an attempt to conceptualize some of Beyzaie’s work as an invitation to confront a self that reflects an encounter with other, larger modes of existence surrounding it.
Mandana Zandian is a graduate of Shahid Beheshti Medical School in 1997. She works at the Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles and is currently engaged in research on aggressive types of advanced cancers. Dr. Zandian, also a published poet, author, and journalist, serves on the editorial board of the Rahavard quarterly journal and collaborates with Homa Sarshar in her weekly radio programs. A selection of Zandian’s love poems is translated into English by Professor Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak as An Eyeful of Earth, An Eyeful of Ocean. Her books include: Omid o Azadi (Hope and Freedom), on the life and works of Iraj Gorgin; Baz-khani-e Dah-Shab (The Ten-Nights Revisited); and her latest book titled Ehsan Yarshater in Conversation with Mandana Zandian.
Nahid is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Maryland, College Park. She received her first Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Tehran where she taught English and world literature during and after graduation. She has published articles and translation books on western philosophy and drama. Her translations include An Introduction to Modern European Philosophy (2008); Nietzsche, an Introduction (2009); After Dinner Joke (2016 & 2018); and Fen: A Play (2019). She teaches World Literature, and World Literature by Women at the University of Maryland. Nahid has served as a researcher at the Academy of Persian language and Literature and as a reviewer in Theatre Quarterly, an Iranian journal on theater studies. For her dissertation, she is focused on post-revolutionary Iranian theater, a historical study that surveys the development of Iranian dramatic literature during the 1980s and 1990s.