Khoda – Reza Dolatabadi

Reza Dolatabadi is director/art director of “Khoda,” a five-minute student film comprised of more than 6000 paintings produced over two years.

Khoda from Reza Dolatabadi

Director/art director: Reza Dolatabadi
Written by Reza Dolatabadi & Mark Szalos Farkas
Animation by Adam Thomson
Music by Hamed Mafakheri

World’s Oldest Animation

In the 1970s, a team of Italian archaeologists discovered a goblet in Iran’s “Burnt City.” Only recently, however, was it discovered that the goblet’s visuals create an animation.


According to an article from “The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies”:

The artefact [sic] bears five images depicting a wild goat jumping up to eat the leaves of a tree, which the members of the team at that time had not recognised [sic] the relationship between the pictures.

It goes on to discuss certain levels of controversy this goblet has brought up:

CHTHO’s cultural authorities claimed the image is a depiction of ‘Assyrian Tree of Life’: the earthenware bowl, which is wrongly known as ‘The Burnt City’s goat’, depicts the myth of ‘The Assyrian Tree of Life’ and a goat.

Depiction of ‘The Assyrian Tree of Life’ on this bowl which was made at least 1000 years before the Assyrian civilisation [sic] even appear in historical records is one of the most preposterous claims by the new breed of experts in post-revolutionary Iran.

Frontline: Showdown With Iran

On October 23rd, PBS will begin airing a Frontline examination of U.S.-Iranian relations, ominously called Showdown With Iran.

The title and previews for this show seem to beat war drums; I’m encouraged only by the fact that PBS is airing this special. PBS has a long history of being even-handed in its political coverage and I will reserve judgment until I’ve watched the program in its entirety.

Local listings can be found on the website. If you miss the program it can be viewed online as well. From the PBS Frontline website:

As the United States and Iran are locked in a battle for power and influence across the Middle East — with the fear of an Iranian nuclear weapon looming in the background — FRONTLINE gains unprecedented access to the Iranian hard-liners shaping government policy. In Showdown with Iran, airing Tuesday, October 23, 2007, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings), FRONTLINE examines how U.S. efforts to install democracy in Iraq have served to strengthen Iran’s position as an emerging power in the Middle East.

“You will not find a single instance in which a country has inflicted harm on us and we have left it without a response,” deputy head of Iran’s National Security Council Mohammad Jafari tells FRONTLINE in his first television interview. “So if the United States makes such a mistake, they should know that we will definitely respond. And we don’t make threats.”

There are increasing signs that the Bush administration is seriously considering military action before it leaves office if Tehran continues to defy U.N. demands that it cease enriching uranium for its nuclear program — a program the Iranians insist is for peaceful purposes. “The president has said repeatedly that it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons,” former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton tells FRONTLINE. “If action is not taken in terms of regime change or, if need be, the use of military force, the question of when Iran achieves nuclear weapons is entirely in Iran’s own hands. And that is extraordinarily undesirable.”

But Richard Armitage, President Bush’s former deputy secretary of state, warns, “It would be the worst of worlds for an outgoing administration to start a conflict.”

After 9/11, the Bush administration hoped to drive a wedge between Iran’s people and their Islamic rulers by installing democracies on two of Iran’s borders. “If things had gone better in Iraq,” says Hillary Mann, the Iran expert on the National Security Council during the run-up to the war, “then yeah, I think Iran was next.”

“I think Iran is more secure now, courtesy of the United States,” Bolton says. “We have removed the Taliban regime from Afghanistan, which they viewed as a mortal threat. We have removed Saddam Hussein in Iraq, which they viewed as a mortal threat.”

Before invading Iraq, the Bush administration rebuffed a series of overtures from Iran’s reformist government — among them offers to help the U.S. stabilize Iraq after the invasion — which culminated in a secret proposal for a grand bargain resolving all outstanding issues between the U.S. and Iran, including Iran’s support for terrorism and its nuclear program. The U.S., which had branded Iran part of the “axis of evil,” decided on a confrontational approach.

Vali Nasr, author of The Shia Revival, believes the Bush administration’s confrontational approach discredited Iran’s reformists and inadvertently helped bring the new hard-line government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. “The wars of 2001 and 2003 have fundamentally changed the Middle East to Iran’s advantage,” he says. “The dam that was containing Iran has been broken.”

Iranians Portrayed as Cockroaches

The Columbus Dispatch last week printed a controversial editorial cartoon depicting Iran as a sewer and Iranians as an infestation of cockroaches.


Niki Akhavan wrote the Dispatch to complain of what she calls an “incitement to hatred” and received a canned response from the paper, reprinted here:

Dear sir or madame:

Thank you for writing to The Dispatch.

You apparently are responding to a call from the Council of American-Islamic relations to write to me and to cartoonist Michael Ramirez to complain about a cartoon about the Iraqi regime’s support of violent extremists and terrorists throughout the Middle East.

CAIR claims the cartoon demeans all Iranians as cockroaches. But since the drain cover depicted in the cartoon is clearly labeled with “Iran” and “extremism” it is clear that the cartoon refers only to those elements of the Iranian regime who support extremism. In other words, it doesn’t come close to labeling all Iranians as cockroaches.

CAIR also likens the cartoon to Nazi propaganda. This is a remarkable display of intellectual gymnastics. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of the Jewish state and questions the Holocaust, while his regime tries to develop nuclear weapons. If CAIR is truly concerned about the promotion of Nazi ideas and the use of Nazi methods, it should direct its attention to Tehran.

CAIR’s claims that its mission is to promote understanding of Islam and combat anti-Islamic information and anti-Islamic attitudes. That’s an honorable mission when it is directed at legitimate grievances.

In this case, CAIR has misrepresented this cartoon and missed the mark by fabricating a false grievance.

All the best,

Glenn Sheller
Editorial Page Editor
The Columbus Dispatch

On the one hand, it’s an editor’s job to stand behind his paper and contributors, but I find his attitude combative and unprofessional. His answer is unapologetic and assumes that the letter was prompted by one organization – untrue in Niki Akhavan’s case – and ignores the writer’s remarks.

Write your emails to the editor at and the cartoonist at

Interviews with Young Iranians: Ali Seradge, Artist

Ali Seradge
Ali Seradge is a 28-year-old artist living in Oklahoma City. He has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Oklahoma and a Masters of Public Health.

His artwork has been published in various journals, and hung multiple times in OVAC’s 12 x 12, LiT lounge in OKC, as well as other venues.

A selection of his work is currently on display at the Gold Dome Multicultural Society.







Ali Seradge artwork1    Ali Seradge artwork2

When did you become interested in art?
I have been interested in art as long as I remember. From cartoons, to comics, to movies to fine art. The visual and the process behind it has always been fascinating to me.

How long have you lived in Oklahoma? In the States?
I’m an Okie. I was born in Florida, then my family moved here when I was one. So, 27 years in Oklahoma. My family moved to the states in ’75.

Living in Oklahoma, what type of Iranian community have you been able to experience? Is there any artistic Iranian presence?
Well, yeah there is a Iranian community here. Larger than most people anticipate. It is different than the bigger cities I must say. More… I don’t know the right word… blended? There is an Iranian art presence, but again, it isn’t an island. I do feel connected to the community. However, being American-born and in an area where we are incredibly integrated, there is a degree of separation for me from Iranians and from Americans.

In what ways has your Iranian background influenced your work?
Actually the previous question leads to this influence.
There is a feeling of isolation, of "almost being being there." A lot of people born in Iran say they have some urge to go back, that it feels like home. In a way, that is a bit distant for me, I don’t have that feeling. On the other hand, I still stand out among people here. There is also something my parents often said: "Be sure you can survive anywhere, you may have to move, be able to go back." I know that happened to them.

Iranian parents aren’t always known for their encouragement of their children when they pursue the arts. How did your parents respond?
Wow, again, the previous question… I think a big reason Iranians, and other foreign nationals, tend to be hesitant towards the arts as profession is a matter of survival. If you are a doctor, engineer, or professor of science there is a sense that you can get a job anywhere, regardless of location.
So, in short, they weren’t thrilled. My father is coming around. My mom still calls it "a hobby." But I guess I could tell them that there are paintings in every culture.

You are having an artist’s reception soon. Could you talk about your works, and what you are trying to achieve with them?
The body of work hanging in this show reflects the feeling of isolation I mentioned earlier. This is a fairly universal phenomenon, the idea that there is something that separates the self from the group, from community.
I felt that this was appropriate in this show for the Gold Dome Multicultural Society. Given their mission of forming stronger multicultural community, I felt it would be good to show pieces reflecting a separation of community.

Every artist has a personal "creative process," explain yours.

My trade secrets! It is actually fairly simple. I look around, read, talk to people. Given that I am a night person, nightlife has a big influence. Then I sketch, whatever comes to my head. Then I set off the paper or canvas. One of the things I took in, then sketched, will come out. After it starts, it is a matter of showing what the original emotional state was when the stimulus arrived, in order to evoke it in the viewer. The bases are laid down, then it is a lot of decision making, not excluding practical ones, such as size and materials. Actually, that wasn’t as simple as I thought.

How do you think/want other people to respond to your art?

First, I hope they DO respond. I want them to sit there and look at it, to try to figure out what the image means to them. How they identify with the characters in the work. I have an illustrative style. I like to hear the story people make for the picture. That’s why I rarely explain meanings of my work.

Finally, is there a website where we can see more of your work?
I am in the artists in OVAC
I’m also part of the Monkey Chainsaw Projects

I can be contacted by email: junkmonkey13[at]hotmail[dot]com

Any final thoughts?
I guess to artists out there: It is possible to live as an artist. Very possible. Scarily possible.

4 Apr 2007, 1:31am


Persian Summer Institute at Cal State Fullerton

CSU Fullerton has two 6 week intensive (10 units) courses (for beginning and moderate speakers) of Persian over the summer.

Here’s the kicker: ALL accepted students get a full scholarship.

The program includes one summer of immersion language study, and a second summer of studying abroad. If you get in, they pay for everything, so that means a free trip to Iran. Interested? Of course you are. The application deadline is April 20 (or 21? Kind of hard to determine from the application), so see the CSUF Persian Institute site for more details.

27 Jan 2007, 1:52am
Film & Television


Looking at Frank Miller and 300

Comic-book artist Frank Miller was interviewed on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” this week, as part of a “diverse group of creative thinkers” talking about the United States’ state of the union from their vantage points.

I’ve always been (and still am) a huge fan of Miller’s artwork and much of his storytelling, and the cinematic vision of his latest comic-turned-film, 300, is nothing short of breathtaking. The film is based on the Spartan-Persian Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartans fought to the death against the massive Persian army. Clearly, this movie is not stacked in favor of the Persians; everyone loves an underdog, and you can’t get a more prototypical one than the Spartans in 300. To be fair, the story is told from the point of view of the Spartan king, and it’s more historical fantasy than fact. The Persian king, Xerxes, is reportedly portrayed as Greek historians wrote him, effeminate and beastly, while the Spartans wax poetic on the freedoms of man (never mind the fact that Sparta was an intolerant police state). In fact, until I’d heard this week’s “Talk of the Nation,” the visual merits of 300 had been enough for me to chalk up to artistic license the blatant historical inaccuracies and demonization of Persians in this movie. But “Talk of the Nation” revealed Miller’s disturbing bias against the Middle East, and this subsequently casts 300 in a whole new light.

In the interview he says, “The entire western world is up against an existential foe… Nobody seems to be talking about who we’re up against, and the sixth-century barbarism that these people actually represent. These people saw people’s heads off. They enslave women, they genetically mutilate their daughters.” [Writer’s note: I believe Miller is referring to genital mutilation.] At first he sounds as if he’s talking specifically about terrorism, and this article isn’t a defense of that type of barbarism. But it’s a critique of the giant brush Miller is using to paint the people of the Middle East as barbarians, because as the interview progresses, it sounds as though he doesn’t see much difference between the fringe, like Al-Qaeda, and the rest of us, who don’t adhere to or support that ideology. Nor does he seem to recognize the fact that the people actually suffering for the war in Iraq are largely innocent civilians. It also seems Miller thinks America has the patent on independence, free-thinking, and innovation; he actually says, “I’m speaking into a microphone that never could have been a product of their culture.” Perhaps he doesn’t know that the Middle East is the cradle of civilization and his comments sound tinged with racism. In light of these comments, it’s hard to see 300 as just a movie.

It appears that 300 supports the idea that western ideology is one that respects independence and freedom while Persians are a warmongering, unsympathetic lot bent on the destruction and submission of others. I understand the concept of artistic license but this film perpetuates the concept of a race of people inherently incapable of understanding the rights of human beings. It’s what Miller seems to believe, and it’s what his movie seems to promote.