Sohrab Shaheed Salles or Sohrab Shahid-Saless (Persian: سهراب شهید ثالث; June 28, 1944 in Tehran, Iran – July 2, 1998 in Chicago, Illinois) was an Iranian film director and screenwriter and one of the most celebrated figures in Iranian cinema in the 20th century. After 1976 he worked in the cinema of Germany and was an important component of the film diaspora working in the German industry.
|Sohrab Shaheed Salles|
Sohrab Shaheed Salles
|Born||28 June 1944
|Died||2 July 1998 (aged 54)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Title||Sohrab Shaheed Salles|
Sohrab Shaheed Salles was born in Tehran in 1944 to a middle-class family and lived in Tehran. Shahid Saless was a storyteller as a child, with a passion for visualizing his narrations. During his teenage years, he showed an imaginative talent, writing and acting in plays with friends. In 1963, Shahid Saless left Iran for Vienna, where he attended a film school and an acting school at the same time, but his studies were discontinued there in 1967 due to a sudden diagnosis of tuberculosis. In the midst of treatment, he left for Paris to continue his film studies at the prestigious Independent Conservatory of French Cinema, and shortly thereafter, in 1968, he returned to Iran. Upon his return to Tehran, Shahid Saless began work with the Iranian Ministry of Culture as a documentary filmmaker, where he produced multiple short films and documentaries, partly on the topic of traditional dance amongst different Iranian ethnic groups.
In the course of his stay in Iran (1968–74), he produced two major feature films, Yek ettefāq-e sāda (A simple event, 1973) and Ṭabiʿat-e bijān (Still life, 1974), both of which won major international awards for their social realist depiction of life in Iran and for their innovative cinematographic and experimental style. In Yek ettefāq-e sāda Shahid Saless entered the film scene with a distinctive style, reporting on the daily life of a ten-year-old villager, showing his struggles to meet ends through smuggling fish. In Ṭabiʿat-e bijān the life of a meagerly paid railroad guard worker who is forced to retire for a younger guard is portrayed. In the course of this film, the distressful life of working class is depicted in a critical light. Shahid Saless also made several short films for the Ministry of Culture and Arts. He made many commissioned films on the local folkloric dances of various ethnic groups. He also started making short documentaries depicting the unnerving condition of life among the working class. Unsurprisingly, the political subversive message of these films was disliked by the government, and Shahid Saless was forced to leave the country.
Settled in Germany in 1974, Shahid Saless started producing documentaries for the German media. The movies he made gained him further international recognition, and he continued making documentary and feature films for major German television programs. At this time, Ramin Molai (1939-2009) worked as a cameraman for many of his German movies produced in Berlin. In Germany, his television productions always had a distinguishing artistic quality. He made his last movie, Rosen für Afrika, in 1991 for German television. In 1992, he left Germany for the United States to join his family. He died from a chronic illness related to his liver from which he suffered throughout his life.
Shahid Saless is known to be a pioneer of the new wave of Iranian cinema. In his own words, his cinema intends to document the “antagonism between man and society” (Shahid Saless et al.). In the course of his oeuvre, he viewed the role of cinema as “to make conscious of indignity and inhumanity of life” (ibid.).
ʿAli Dehbāši, ed., Yad-nāma-ye Sohrāb-e Šahid-Ṯāleṯ, Tehran, 1999.
Sohrab Shahid Saless, Mamad Haghighat, Rahgozar, and Timothy S. Murphy, “This Isn’t Pessimism: Interview with Sohrab Shahid Saless,” Discourse 21/1, 1999, pp. 175-80.
In his first feature, the milestone film A Simple Event (1973), he describes the everyday life of a ten-year-old boy living in a small town with an ill mother and a father struggling to make a living smuggling fish. In contrast, Still Life (1974) explores the monotony in the life of an old railway switchman – a film that won many prizes, including one at the 1974 Berlinale. In 1975 Sohrab directed Far from Home (1975).
In 1976 on moving to Germany Sohrab released Diary of a Lover (1976), Coming of Age (1976), and Utopia (1983). Utopia is a 186-minute film regarded by critics as a "hard ghetto film" and is the tale of a pimp and his five girls. The film was entered into the 33rd Berlin International Film Festival.
Towards his later career he mostly directed films for television. Between 1991 and 1992 he directed Rosen für Afrika, a Psychodrama about how injustice is turned into oblivion about an opportunity worker and a woman from the civil house of a marriage for 30 years . Soon the relationship fails due to the aggressive, also destructive tendencies of the man who enters a deep personal crisis. When the marriage coined/shaped of force and Psychoterror goes finally into the breaks, the man looks for comfort in the alcohol and becomes criminal. It was released on German television in 1991.
With A Simple Event Sohrab Shaheed Salles emerged on the Iranian film scene as a filmmaker with a distinctive style. Adopting an almost documentary style, Shaheed Salles records uneventful moments in the lives of ordinary people. He has said, "A Simple Event has no plot. It is only a report on the daily life of a boy". Working with a cast of non-professional local players, Sohrab constructed his film with realistic images that almost corresponded with the temporal flow of rural life. The film is so simple and unadorned that it creates the illusion of having been made with no prepared overall design.
For all its lyrical charm, A Simple Event must be considered as a prelude or a preparation for Sohrab's acclaimed film Still Life which was awarded the Silver Bear for best direction and the critics’ prize at the 24th Berlin International Film Festival in 1974. Still Life is the monotonous, uneventful life of a switchman living in a remote, desolate spot. For the old man and his wife everything ends on the day he receives his retirement papers. A young switchman arrives and the old man has to move... to nowhere.
This poetical and elegiac picture is regarded as one of the best works produced in Iranian cinema. Salles defends basic human values, and at the same time exposes the horrible cruelty upon which the bureaucratic system is based. All his life the old man repeats a simple job: lowering the fence on the road intersecting the railway whenever a train passes. And Sohrab presents the dull monotony of this life with an appropriate rhythm.
Sohrab Shaheed Salles won 12 professional film awards and 3 nominations during his career.
1972 Ob? , Best Documentary, National Tehran Film Festival. 1972 black and white, Golden Plaque, Tehran International Children's Film Festival 1973 A simple event, Golden Ibex for Best Director at the International Film Festival in Tehran 1974 Price of the Catholic and Protestant Film Jury as part of the Young Forum at the International Film Festival Berlin 1974 Still Life, Silver Bear Award of the International Film Critics Prize of the Protestant jury, International Film Festival [3 ]In 1975 the stranger, Prize of the International Film Critics, International Film Festival Berlin 1976 ripening period, Bronze Hugo, Chicago International Film Festival 1977 Diary of a lover Special Film Award of the British Film Institute, London Film Festival1977 Documenta 6 in Kassel 1980 order, Silver Hugo, Chicago International Film Festival Participation in the Cannes Film Festival Week of directors . 1981 Grabbes Last Summer, three Grimme prices with Gold: Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Male Actor. Best TV Movie of the Year [4 ] , the price of the North Rhine-Westphalian Minister of Culture for best director . 1984 Utopia Award of the Academy of Performing Arts : Best Film of the year. 1991 Roses for Africa, International Film Festival Hof.