CBS Film Series explores pre revolutionary Iran with documentary and Q&A

Attendees of the CBS Film Series screening of "Before the Revolution" were treated to a question and answer session with author Jacqueline Saper who lived through the revolution. Matt Fernandez/ The Signal

The Congregation Beth Shalom Film Series explored pre-revolutionary Iran with a screening of the documentary “Before the Revolution.”

The film tells the story of filmmaker Dan Shadur’s parents and the other Israeli Jewish people who lived in Iran during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Using archival footage and footage from his own family, Shadur’s film recounts the harrowing days and uncertainty of the Israeli people who eventually had to flee Iran. Suzannah Warlick, director of the CBS Film Series, said she wanted her audience to get a different perspective on Iran than what is typically portrayed in news coverage. 

First-time screening attendee Judy Tauton said that though she remembers the news coverage of the revolution she did not recall the specific details.

“I just remember the turmoil, and it scared the world,” Tauton said. “I want to get an understanding of the personal impact that the revolution had and hear some firsthand accounts.”

Former helicopter pilot Dennis Bartash lived in Iran, taught the Shah’s pilots how to fly and got married to his wife during the revolution. He said that he was interested in seeing how the film would recapture that period in his life.

“We were on the last flight out of Iran before the embassy was taken over the first time,” Bartash said. “When I first arrived to Iran in 1974, I thought it was going to lead the world because it was so Westernized, and I have never lived so well as I did in Iran. The film was very accurate.”

Bartash’s wife, Nastaran, who is Iranian, said she loved life under the shah of Iran and is displeased with how the country is being run by the current regime.

This month’s screening also included a Skype interview with author Jacqueline Saper, who lived in Iran during the time of the revolution and whose new book “From Miniskirt to Hijab: A Girl in Revolutionary Iran” details her life during that period.

Warlick said she likes to get as many guest speakers to participate in the film series as possible. When Saper contacted Warlick to speak about her experience after hearing about the screening, Warlick said she was very excited because the author lived in Iran before, during and after the revolution and could give firsthand accounts and address audience questions directly. 

Screening attendee Michele Lobl said that she learned a lot from the screening and interview that she never realized about Iran. Fellow audience member Rochelle Mann said that prior to the screening she only thought of Iran as a bad place and that she felt very informed by the film and interview. 

“I never knew what a great life the Jewish people had in Iran before the revolution, how drastic the change was and that they were lucky to get out with their lives,” Lobl said. “I really loved hearing the interview because she was there and it was all from her point of view.”

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