LOS ANGELES, June 28 (JTA) —The generation of Persian Jews who escaped Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution with their parents and traded a fearful existence for lives in New York and Los Angeles are now emerging in the entertainment industry, JTA News reports. (With thanks: Albert)
Whether it’s producing Oscar-winning films, appearing on prime-time network television series or performing stand-up comedy, young Jews of Iranian heritage have been breaking with their community’s traditional norms and leaving their imprint on Hollywood.
Perhaps the most notable success came earlier this year when Iranian Jewish film producer Bob Yari’s independent film “Crash” won the Best Picture Oscar and generated $93 million in worldwide sales.
“I had a gut feeling that it would be something special but you never know, so I was hoping and my hopes came to fruition,” said Yari, 44, whose four production companies have backed 25 films in three years. (…)
“I’m always interested in telling stories that I think touch people and mean something to people,” he said. “One of the things that’s always attracted me to film is its power to influence people to put aside their prejudices or judging people based on their heritage or color of skin.”
Yari is not the only Iranian Jew doing well in Hollywood. Nightclub and hotel entrepreneur Sam Nazarian, 30, is financing and producing films through his L.A.-based SBE Entertainment Group.
His production company Element Films has produced five films so far and anticipates producing up to a dozen a year, each budgeted at less than $15 million, according to the Internet Movie Database Web site.
Young Iranian Jews also have been writing and directing independent features. Prior to forming her own production company, Azita Zendel worked for four years as an executive assistant to Oliver Stone and collaborated with him on films including “JFK,” “Nixon” and “Natural Born Killers.” (…)
Some Iranian Jewish filmmakers are trying to parlay their success to tell their own cultural narratives. Soly Haim, a Los Angeles-based independent producer, is seeking financing for a documentary about how Iranian Jews helped Jews flee Iraq in the middle of the 20th century.
“Documentaries are hard to get financing for because, unlike films, documentaries usually go for television broadcasts, and the revenues generated do not match the revenues generated from feature films,” said Haim, 44. (…)
Yari, for his part, said he’s looking to develop a feature film about the events that led to the 1979 Iranian revolution and the collapse of the shah’s regime.