It was 2016 when I was first approached about the possibility of going to Iran to make a major series about the history and art of Persia.
It took 3 years to get the visas and we filmed exactly a year ago. I’d last visited in 2002 for a Channel 4 Series Islam Unveiled that focussed on Islam and feminism around the world and always wanted to go back. It seems to me exactly what the BBC should be doing: informing, educating and entertaining.
Going beneath the news headlines to help us meet the Iranian people and get an insight into how they see themselves and their place in the world. I cannot thank the ordinary people of Iran who welcomed us enough, and hope these films do their rich heritage and resilience justice. Thanks to the UK based-academics you’ll see in the programmes who helped provide context and insight and spoke with passion and expert knowledge about how to interpret these sites and objects.
And there is obviously a real poignancy in seeing the films shot before the Covid 19 pandemic. Some of these photos capture ideas we filmed, like the roses sequence below, but sadly couldn’t fit into the final programmes. 7000 years in just 3 hours!
You’ll see amazing imagery (including some remarkable drone shots) thanks to cameraman Craig Hastings and hear memorable sounds and insights thanks to Doug Dreger our BAFTA nominated soundman.
I am hugely grateful to producer Richard Downes for his stamina, patience and care, who brought the benefit of his experience on his earlier Silk Road documentary series to work so hard on this and is the shaping force behind it all.
Special thanks to Mark Hedgecoe for recommending me for this. And to everyone at BBC Studios and BBC Arts and in post production and publicity for editing and the gorgeous graphics and the promotional work with a trailer and interviews to raise awareness of the series..
The series wouldn’t have happened without the longterm work and daily support of our colleagues in Iran. Meisam Jebelli and Naser Safarzadeh were on the road with us every day; Meisam translating as well as organising filming access and interviews. Senior Producer Reza Ganji got the whole show off the ground. It was an honour to work with them.
All photographs are copyright of Meisam Jebelli and Craig Hastings.
The Art of Being Persian (Financial Times Jun 13th) – my feature on the making of Art of Persia