Bahrām Beizai pensive, photographed by Fakhreddin Fakhreddini
December 26, 1938 |
|Occupation||Playwright, Film director, Theatre director, Screenwriter|
Bahrām Beyzāi (also spelt Bahrām Beizai, Bahrām Beyzaie, Persian: بهرام بیضائی, born 26 December 1938 in Tehran) is a critically acclaimed Iranian film director, theatre director, screenwriter, playwright, film editor, producer, and researcher.
Bahram Beyzai is the son of the poet Ostād Ne'mat'ollāh Beyzāi  (best known by his literary pseudonym Zokā'i Beyzāi - ذکائی بیضائی). The celebrated poet Adib Ali Beyzāi, considered as one of the most profound poets of the 20th-century Iran, is Bahram Beyzai's paternal uncle. Bahram Beyzai's paternal grandfather, Mirzā Mohammad-Rezā Ārāni (Ebn Ruh - ابن روح), and paternal great-grandfather, the mulla Mohammad-Faqih Ārāni (Ruh'ol-Amin - روح الامین), were also renowned poets.
Beyzai is part of a generation of filmmakers in the Iranian New Wave, a Persian cinema movement that started in the late 1960s and includes other pioneering directors such as Abbas Kiarostami, Forough Farrokhzad, Sohrab Shahid Sales, and Parviz Kimiavi. The filmmakers share many common techniques including the use of poetic dialog, references to traditional Persian art and culture and allegorical story-telling often dealing with political and philosophical issues.
Beyzai was interested in the arts from a very young age. In high school, Dar'ol-Fonoun, he wrote two historical plays which went on to become his preferred method of writing. He studied literature at Tehran University, but started skipping school from around the age of 17 in order to go to movies which were becoming popular in Iran at a rapid pace. This only fed his hunger to learn more about the cinema of Iran and the visual arts. At the age of 21 he did substantial research on the traditional Persian plays, Book of Kings (Shahname) and Ta'zieh and by 1961 he had already spent a great deal of time studying and researching other ancient Persian and pre-Islamic culture and literature. This in turn led him to studying Eastern theatre and traditional Iranian theatre and arts which would help him formulate a new non-western identity for Iranian theatre. He also became acquainted with Persian painting.
By late 1961 he had already published numerous articles in various arts and literary journals. In 1962 he made his first short film (4 minutes) in 8 mm format. In the next two years he wrote several plays and published "Theatre in Japan".
In the next eight or so years of his life throughout the early to late 1960s, Bayzai dedicated to writing in various publications about Eastern art and Persian literature enabled through his extensive study and also wrote a number of essays about Iranian cinema which later became the subject of one of his books. It is during this period that he wrote popular books which are often regarded as masterpieces; The Eight Voyage of Sinbad, Banquet, Serpant King, Dolls, The Story of the Hidden Moon and many more.
In 1968, Beyzai became one of the first people to join the Iranian Writer's Guild, a highly controversial organization in Iran in the face of censorship, known as the Kanun-e Nevisandegan-e Iran.
Theatrical career and playwriting
Beyzai's early study and interest in drama and the theatre is well known, but less well-known is his early work as a dramatist. As a young man Beyzai had always been fascinated by the traditions of Iranian theatre, and this included the puppet theatre. His "Se Nemayeshname-ye 'Arusaki" ("Three Puppet Plays") was published in 1963, and The Marionettes was the first one of these three plays. But for all that it is unmistakably based on the model of the traditional puppet theatre, "The Marionettes" is shaped by other traditions, too. It is the work of someone au fait with the work of Pirandello and the Theatre of the Absurd. In the 1960s, plays by dramatists such as Beckett and Ionesco were often translated into the Persian language and performed in Iran soon after their premieres in the West). Drawing on these varied influences, Beyzai's play is a little-known master-piece of 20th-century drama. Beyzaie's "Drama in Iran" (Namayesh dar Iran), published in late 1960s is still considered the most important text on the history of Iranian theater. Beyzaie is also the first scholar in Iran to publish books on theater in China and Japan.
Some of his plays such as his masterpiece Marg-e Yazdgerd (Death of Yazdgerd) have been made into films.
Beyzaie has over 50 published plays, some of which are as follows. Theses works have occasionally appeared in French, English, German and other translations too.
- "Gorob dar Diari Garib" (Evening in a Strange Land, translation into English by Gisele Kapuscinski)
- "Chahar Sandoogh" (Four Boxes, translation into English by Mohammad Reza Ghanoonparvar and John Green)
- "Hashtomin Safar e Sandbad" (Sinbad's Eighth Voyage; Le Huitième voyage de Sindbad, translation into French by Ahmad Kamyabi Mask ISBN 9782950480613)
- Ziāfat va Mirās (1967 - aka Heritage and The Feast)
- Soltān-Mār (1969 - aka The King Snake)
- Marg-e Yazdgerd (1979 - aka Death of Yazdgerd)
- Memoirs of the Actor in a Supporting Role (1981)
- Kārnāme-ye Bandār Bidakhsh (1997 and 1998)
- Bānū Aoi (1997 and 1998) (based on The Lady Aoi by Yukio Mishima)
- Shab-e Hezār-o-yekom (2003)
- Afrā yā Rooz migozarad (2007 - aka Afra, or the day passes)
In 1969 he began his film career by directing the short film Amu Sibilou (Uncle Moustache) followed by "Safar" in 1970.
Immediately after, in 1971, he made his first feature film "Ragbar" ("Downpour") which is regarded by critics to this day as one of the most successful Iranian films ever made. The successful film addresses the late Parviz Fannizadeh as its central character and protagonist.
Since then he has produced and directed 8 films including Qaribe va Meh (Stranger and the Fog) (1974), Cherike-ye Tara (Ballad of Tara) (1979), Bashu, the Little Stranger (1986, released in 1989), Shāyad Vaghti digar (Maybe another time) (1988) and Mosaferan (Travellers) (1992). He has also written the screenplay to Ruz-e Vaqe'e (The Fateful Day) in 1995 and Fasl-e Panjom (The fifth season) in 1996, whilst also editing Borj-e Minu (Minoo Tower).
He is known as the most intellectual and conspicuous “author” in Iranian cinema. The main theme of his works is the history and “crisis of identity” which is related to Iranian cultural and mythical symbols and paradigms.
Reception and criticism
Beyzai has made significant contribution to the development of the Cinema of Iran and theatre and is regarded as an influential director and innovator of the Iranian New Wave movement of cinema. He is also considered Iran’s most prominent screenwriter in terms of dramatic integrity of his works, many of which have been made into films.
However, despite the value of his films and his substantial knowledge of the arts, like other Iranian film directors such as Abbas Kiarostami, the Government of Iran has never supported his career, neither before nor after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Even after some 20 years, his films such as Ballad of Tara (1980) and Death of Yazdgerd (1981) have never received a screening permit in Iran. Both films have been shelved because they are not in accordance with the Islamic code currently in operation in Iranian motion pictures. Even Bashu, the Little Stranger almost saw the same fate in 1986 due to the subject matter of the film, i.e. the story of a little orphaned boy who lost his parents in the Iran-Iraqi war. The film was only legalized after the end of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War and was released in 1989.
Filmography (as a director)
- Amū Sibilū (1969 - short)
- Safar (1970 - short - aka The Journey)
- Ragbār (1971 - aka Downpour)
- Qaribé va Meh (1974 - aka The Stranger and the Fog)
- Kalāq (1976 - aka The Crow or The Raven )
- Charike-ye Tārā (1979 - aka Ballad of Tara)
- Marg-e Yazdgerd (1982 - aka Death of Yazdgerd)
- Bashu, the Little Stranger (1986 - aka Bashu - released 1989)
- Shāyad Vaghti digar (1988 - aka Maybe Some Other Time)
- Mosāferan (1992 - aka Travellers)
- Goft-o-gū bā Bād (1998 - short - aka Talking with the Wind)
- Sagkoshi (2001 - aka Killing Mad Dogs)
- Qāli-ye Sokhangū (2006)
- Vaqti hame khābim (When we are all asleep) (2009)
- Two thousand verse lines by Zokā'i Beyzāi, of a total of six thousand, were published in 1978 (1357 AH) in a book entitled Yad-e Bayzā (The White Hand); Bayzā in Persian is the literary word for White. See Arash Fanā'iān, Gofteman-e Iran, January 20, 2008. .
- Arash Fanā'iān, Gofteman-e Iran, January 20, 2008. . It is noteworthy that Adib Ali Beyzāi's son, Hossein Beyzāi, is also a poet; his literary pseudonym is Partow (Ray of Light).
- Arash Fanā'iān, Gofteman-e Iran, January 20, 2008. .
- For an illustrated report on Dar'ol-Fonoun see: Hamid-Reza Hosseini, Dar'ol-Fonoun in want of Love ("Dar'ol-Fonoun dar hasrat-e eshq"), in Persian, Jadid Online, September 22, 2008, . The pertinent photographs (15 in total) can be viewed here: . The following is the photograph of what used to be the amphitheatre of Dar'ol-Fonoun: .
- Hamid Dabashi, Masters & Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema, 451 p. (Mage Publishers, Washington, DC, 2007); Chapter IX, pp. 253–280: Bahram Beizai; Bashu, the Little Stranger. ISBN 0-934211-85-X
- Official website
- Bahram Beizai at the Internet Movie Database
- Bahram Bayzai's biography on Iran Chamber Society (www.iranchamber.com)
- Speaking with Bahram Bayzai; [Afrā], Day Passes By, in Persian, BBC Persian, Sunday 6 January 2008, .
- A short talk with Bahram Bayzai, the celebrated director of film and theatre, in Persian, Deutsche Welle, Wednesday 26 December 2007: (Main page), (Audio recording of interview — 4 min 9 sec).
- Najmeh Khalili Mahani, Bahram Baizai, Iranian Cinema, Feminism, Art Cinema, Off Screen, January 31, 2003, .