Ta’zieh; Another Narration

Director, Editor: Parviz Jahed
Producers: Parviz Jahed, Behrouz Maghsoudlou
Executive Producer: Bahman Maghsoudlou
Camera: Mahmoud Mazra’ati
With: Jaber Anasori, Bahram Beyza’i, Peter Chelkowski,
Abdol-ali Khalili, Laleh Taghian
2001, Color, 75 min., Iran

Ta’zieh or Shabih-Khani is one of the oldest and most authentic traditions of theater in Iran. It is a kind of theater based on agonizing life stories and fables of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. Essentially, they are the events and atrocities that confront Imam Hossein and his apostles in the Karbala desert during the Moharram of ’61 Hejry (Lunar Calendar).

Although solely religious theatrics at its inception, Ta’zieh soon thereafter encompassed other forms of folklore, thus assuming an entertaining characteristic.

Ancient Iranian rituals and ceremonies are at the root of Ta’zieh, specifically Soog-e-Syavash (a sacred theatrical mourning ritual). Syavash was an Iranian mythological hero whose destiny was marked by tragedy and destitution. Upon his death, a mesmerizing hymn commemorated Syavash’s sad tale. The hymn maintained its importance up to the 3rd century (Hejry), apparently from the All-e-Booyeh Dynasty and on. As a result of the growth of the Shi’ite movement it became a part of the Shi’ite Persian ritual.

During the Safavi-yeh Dynasty (10th century), Ta’zieh’s popularity grew tremendously as it took a more theatrical form; by the end of the Zandi-yeh Dynasty (11th century) it had taken on a form approximate to its contemporary one.

Today, Ta’zieh is not just an exhibition of religious narration. Composed simply, each Ta’zieh-Nameh (script), through a rhymed didactic presentation, independently expresses the various religious myths of Karbala’s ten day journey. The central theme of these plays is the conflict between good and evil, or right and wrong, persevering for the belief of Heavenly Justice. The protagonist of a Ta’zieh prefers death over life lived under oppression.

Through a non-naturalistic approach, Ta’zieh presents familiar concepts and ideas to its audience. Concurrently it does not use a symbolic language that needs interpretation. While the techniques of performance do not represent commonly understood everyday living experiences, the play is comprehensible to a lay audience through the use of costumes, decorations, accessories and props.

Ta’zieh, with its peculiar form of performance, confirming a kind of moral, religious and ideological order, is able to invoke an emotional reaction from the audience. They become engaged in a frame of mind that mourns Hossein’s martyrdom. As a member of the audience, one finds an intense connection between oneself and the actors. It is this emotional and spiritual relationship that is unique in the world of theater.

The movie Ta’zieh: Another Narration is a documentary film about Ta’zieh. Theater experts and theoreticians analyze and criticize part of Imam-Hossein’s and Hazrat-e Abbass Ta’zieh, which are typically performed in rural villages of northern Iran (i.e. the Shavy Lasht region in the Mazandaran province). Moreover this film contains all the significant and unique elements and characteristics of this form of sacred-ritual play. It uses comparative analysis of Ta’zieh and the modern art of theater and the place of Ta’zieh in the Iranian contemporary theater.
The most significant elements discussed in the film are:

– The creation and the development of Ta’zieh in Iran (the mythological and religious roots of Ta’zieh).
– The characteristics of Taziyeh scripts, based on this poetical expression, their literal values, their sense of historical legitimacy and their narrative references.
– The symbolism used in Taziyeh.
– The stage accessories and props such as costumes, armories, horses, etc.
– The relevance of time and space in reference to Ta’zieh.
– The acting style in Taziyeh (differences between “Actors Of The Good” (Movafeg-Khanha) and “Actors of the Evil” (Mokhalef-Khanha).)
– The directing of Taziyeh.
– The performance technique in Taziyeh.
– The use of “Alienation” technique in Ta’zieh.
– The relationship between Ta’zieh and Naghali (Narrating epic myths while employing pictures painted on curtains) tradition and Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh.

The film was shown on Canadian television on the Learning and Skills channel in the Fall of 2003.

The film was selected for the 44th Festival dei Popoli in Florence, Italy and the First Iranian.com Festival in Berkeley, CA, both in late 2003, and the third annual Tiburon International Film Festival in Tiburon, CA in early 2004.

also see:

Parviz Jahed’s Bio/Filmography
Ta’zieh short synopsis

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