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Rumi film


Farewell to Rumi
Film in planning

By Khashayar Darvich
July 1997
The Iranian

Overview of project
Filmmakers involved
Financial
Synopsis
Comments from readers & replies


Overview of project

Wakan Film Productions in Washington D.C. is producing "Farewell to Rumi," an extraordinary Independent American film about Iranians in America.

This would be the first film ever about Iranians outside of Iran, and certainly the first American film to give a positive impression of Iranians and Persian culture. The filmmakers, particularly Scriptwriter-Director-Producer Khashyar Darvich, want to correct the negative stereotypes that films like "Not Without My Daughter" and the media in general have been giving people world-wide about Persian and Middle-Eastern culture.

By showing this film in theaters and video in America and around the world, we want to make Iranians feel proud about their Persian heritage. The Persian culture to be showcased in the film includes the poems in Farsi of Jalaluddin Molavi (Rumi), Persian and Sufi music, the talents of Persian actors and artists, and a story about the cultural struggle of an Iranian family in America.

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Filmmakers involved

Response from readers of the script (which is summarized on the last page) has been that the story is dazzling and produces a profound spiritual shift in them that lingers long after the last page. "Farewell to Rumi" has veteran producers involved in the project, including Producer Karl Genus (former President of the Director's Guild), Producer Dennis Aig (an Emmy-winning producer), and Khashyar Darvich (a scriptwriter, PBS filmmaker, and Telly Award winner.

Dennis Aig has also won several awards at film festivals across the country including two Emmies, four Emmy nominations, and a Telly. He has worked on Robert Redford's "A River Runs Through It," Redford's new film "The Horse Whisperer," and Ron Howard's "Far and Away."

Khashyar Darvich, who was born in America and lived in Iran when he was a child, has written the script for "Farewell to Rumi" and will direct the film. His father was born and raised in Iran (Mazanderon). Khashyar has written several scripts which have received the interest of more than one Hollywood studio. He is currently producing several feature films (one of which will be filmed later this year) and recently produced and directed a PBS documentary about the history of the oldest gold mining town in Colorado that won a 1997 Telly Award.

Karl Genus' resume and credits are a mile long, and he has many prominent friends in Hollywood. We are looking forward to Karl's brilliant casting insights, as when he discovered and gave first acting roles to Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Peter Falk, and Cliff Robertson. Khashyar is a good friend of Karl's and is helping produce Karl's $30 million feature, "Samadhi," which is the first film ever to receive permission from the Indian government to film inside the Taj Mahal.

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Financial

Commercially successful films with a similar appeal include: "The Wedding Banquet," "The Joy Luck Club," and particularly "Like Water for Chocolate." A similar film to "Farewell to Rumi," "The Wedding Banquet," about Chinese-Americans, was made for $1 million and grossed $24 million worldwide. "The Brothers McMullen," a film about Irish-Americans, was made for about $27,000, and grossed over $12 million in the U.S. alone.

Because of the Iranian-American theme (the first time ever portrayed on film), the strong character-driven plot, and the stunning, unconventional images, "Farewell to Rumi" should attract a broad audience.

We've been very careful to make this a financially viable project with a comparatively low budget, made possible partly by our key players being willing to work for less than their usual fees because they really believe in this project.

We have raised part of "Farewell to Rumi"'s budget, and are currently raising the remainder of what we need. Molavi Productions is raising one of three full budgets for the film: $100,000, $490,000, or $1.1 million. The average studio budget for a feature film is about $35 million, with most of that going to stars' salaries. With whichever of the three budget amounts we raise, we can make a powerful film, but we can make the best quality film with the highest budget. With the two highest budgets, for example, we can hire relatively well-known star actors.

The budget amounts of this film increase the chance for a good return on the film. A detailed financial and distribution plan is included in a 100-page film business plan for "Farewell to Rumi" which is available to anyone seriously interested in investing or helping the production.

Investors will be listed in the film's credits, will be invited to film's opening night premiere gala event as well as production parties to meet the producers, directors and actors, will receive a VHS copy of the finished film, and will be invited to the set to watch some of the filming.

If you believe, like we do, that "Farewell to Rumi" will make an extraordinary film as well as positively promote Persian culture, then please contact me at Wakan Films, P.O. Box 1360; Washington Grove, MD 20880-1360 to speak further about the film. You can also email me at: Sufipoet@aol.com, which would be a more economical and faster way of communicating back and forth. If you are interested in helping, then Molavi Productions can send you the completed script and a thorough business/film plan that includes about 50 major news articles written about the producers.

We already have several Hollywood studios and distributors interested in the film, but we would rather fund this film through Persians and other interested independent sources so that we have the complete freedom to make this special story into the exact positive film that all Persians would be proud of.

Also, please get in touch with me if you have any ideas, helpful suggestions or comments.

Thanks,

Khashyar Darvich, Producer /Director (Sufipoet@aol.com or WakanFilms@aol.com)

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FAREWELL TO RUMI: Synopsis
By Khashyar Darvich

(The full completed script is available upon request, email: Sufipoet@aol.com or WakanFilms@aol.com)

"Farewell to Rumi" is a sometimes surreal love story/drama about an Iranian family living near the mountains of Colorado that takes us on a rollercoaster of life's journey.

The story also explores Persian Sufism, the whirling Dervishes and the 13th Century Sufi poet, Molavi (Jalaluddin Rumi), through the life of the family's only son, 17-year-old Rumi Darvich-- a sensitive dreamer living true to his unique self.

With interests in poetry and spirituality, Rumi is teased and beaten up in school, but still wins the affection of and develops a pure love with Melissa, a popular cheerleader in his high school.

Rumi's father, a well-educated college professor in Iran, loses his job driving a taxi in the streets of Denver and Rumi's Swedish-born mother, Ann, develops a life-threatening liver disease that forces Rumi to deal with her impending death.

The film also partially explores the influence of extra-terrestrials, the meaning and influence of death and what life is like after death.

Twentieth Century Rumi allows his fantasies to roam, imagining that he (as a Lawrence of Arabia-type) and Melissa ride in the desert, and another scene where he is a Persian, James Bond-like assassin.

In a surrealistic turn of events, the 13th Century poet, Molavi, enters our world and advises a couple of the 20th century characters in the story about what direction their lives need to turn.

The script also presents neo-Christian images and is interwoven with Khashyar Darvich's original poetry.

The film also touches upon how an Iranian family deals with cultural prejudice in America.

In the end of the story, Rumi's mother is liberated from her life's suffering through death while doing what she loves (dancing) and we catch a glimpse of what Rumi has learned through all of this: that life is impermanent and that we must live each moment as if it is the only real moment we have.

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Comments from readers and replies

NOTE: All messages received so far have been posted regardless of point of view.

Last updated July 26, 1997

* Andrea wright: Better writing (& thiker skin)
* MR Nikou: Follow your bliss
* Ali Isfahani: Lacking substance
* Bruce Bahmani: Shookh o Shang
* Khashahyar Darvich: Not a Hollywood movie
* Shirin Etessam: Not the first film about Iranians abroad
* ? : Offended by "terrorist" remarks
* Khashahyar Darvich: Overwhelming support
* Farhad Froozan: Criticism


Better writing (& thiker skin)

From: Andrea Wright andrea.wright@reporters.net

His passion is blinding Mr. Darvich's good judgment. To proceed "authentically and originally" is not enough. One must also proceed with prudence and practicality. All that gibberish about the Hollywood system has nothing to do with the critiques he has received thus far, at least not Mr. Froozan's or any others I've seen. It seems to me that they very sensibly address what he has overlooked, and that his defensive response to these constructive criticisms belies his professed knowledge of film making.

As a print journalist rather than a film maker, I have, nevertheless, studied scriptwriting, written documentaries, and worked professionally as an assistant producer of corporate video news features enough to recognize that Mr. Darvich's convoluted and confused proposal would be absolutely impossible to pull together in any coherent fashion, and most assuredly not for anything like the sum he suggests.

This too wide-ranging treatment would cost a shah's ransom to produce if it actually encompassed everything set out in his synopsis. As for his seeming to be offended by anyone making an "unequivocal judgment" from reading that synopsis, I take him to mean an "unfair" judgment since unequivocal means "certain", "unmistakable", etc., and that is precisely what a synopsis is for. He had jolly well better be able to write a synopsis that CAN effect unequivocal judgments, or he'll never get beyond synopses.

And if he plans on being a writer of anything, he needs to work on toughening his skin. It's much too thin now to take all those rejections slips every writer, even a Hemingway, has to expect. Hopefully he will reconsider both his synopsis and his critiques and get back to the drawing board; if he can bring as much common sense to his work as he brings passion, he should ultimately have a winner.

Andrea Wright

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Follow your bliss

M. Nikou

Dear Khashahyar,

I have just read the comments and your response to one of them on the Iranian Bulletin.

Please remember that there are always some people who love what you do and some who hate it. As you implied in your note, you must do what you have to do. Follow your bliss and all the forces in the universe will be with you. Don't even bother to answer the envious few. At the end, you shall overcome their ignorance. May Rumi Look Upon You,

MRN


Lacking substance

From: Ali Isfahani UHAP086@vms.rhbnc.ac.uk

When I saw the name Rumi in the Bulletin No. 188 my interest was greatly roused. As I read on, the excitement gave way to sorrow and fear. The reason was that from the little, but very long- and hard-earned, familiarity I had with Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi (quddisa sirruh), I rightly expected that any exposition associated with this blessed name be profound, informed, authentic, and of course pertinent and with a lot of substance.

But reading Khashyar Darvich's synopsis of "Fairwell to Rumi" I saw that it lacked all these qualities. The name "Rumi" seemed to be used as not really more than an "attention grabber".

I tried to express my concerns directly to Khashyar Darvich by emailing him at Sufipoet@aol.com which in his words "would be a more economical and faster way of communicating back and forth", but I never received any replies. Having seen the reply that Mr Darvich did give (to Froozan's criticism), however, saddens me no less: for it is mainly emotional, defiant, and grandiose.

In closing, despite all the criticisms, I would like to wish Khashyar Darvich true success in his career and in his life, and I hope he does not take personal offence at these criticisms. My criticisms are not motivated by jealousy, sense of commercial contest, etc.

In all fairness I should not be blamed, or accused of being cynical, for my sensitivity regarding anything to do with the extraordinary Maulana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi Rumi.

* Appended is the letter that was ignored:

2-JUL-1997

Dear Mr Darvich

THE IRANIAN Bulletin No. 188 of Wednesday, July 2, 1997 was all about the planned film: "Farewell to Rumi". The mention of "Rumi" in the bulletin made me read all of it.

While it is not my intention to discourage you from making the film, I must say that after reading the synopsis one fears the film might insult the intelligence of those who actually know a little about Rumi.

Please check for yourself that this fear is well-founded by consulting some of the reasonably scholarly and authentic works available in English (such as W. Chittick's Sufi Path of Love, or Annemarie Schimmel's The Triumphal Sun, or even Arberry's Discourses of Rumi) which help explain Rumi's MEANING.

I trust a professional of your calibre would have due care for the standards of scholarship and authenticity, and pray you do not mistake my genuine concern and frankness for jealousy or lack of appreciation of your gifts and industry.

"... and peace be unto one who follows the Guidance". Wishing you true success,

Ali Isfahani

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Shookh o Shang

From: Bruce Bahmani btc19@IDT.NET

:o) RE: Khashayar Correction

"One of my main goals is to show the world that Iranians are people just like any other people, and not terrorists..."

Should have read as "One of my main goals is to show the world that Iranians are like any other people, and not just terrorists..." :o)

:o) RE:Shirin Etessam & Not the first film about Iranians abroad,

Maybe if anyone had heard about your film the claim would not have been made. Unfortunately getting credit has the nasty habit of requiring a minimum level of achievement.:o)

:o)RE: Eloy1997 & Offended by "terrorist" remarks

Anyone who uses the term "the west" is a terrorist.:o)

:o) = Maskhareh va Shookh o Shang!

b

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Not a Hollywood movie

From: Khashahyar Darvich WakanFilms@aol.com
Producer /Director "Farewell to Rumi"

I thank Mr. Froozan for his comments and interest in responding to "Farewell to Rumi."

I am happy and grateful that we live in a society where we can disagree about things, even without knowing much about them.

I agree that it would be terrible, as Mr. Froozan implies, that anyone, Persian or otherwise, make a shallow and unimportant film, and one filled with cultural cliches. Being someone who feels passionately about my work, and who considers himself a hardworking conscientious artist and filmmaker, my heart would close tight like a dictator's if I were working on a project that did not proceed authentically and originally.

And that is why I do not want to make this film via the Hollywood system, which would put several writers on the script, dilluting it with each writer's ego that fears needing to justify his or her paycheck. Hollywood would remove anything risky or that takes chances in the story... Panicky studio heads who are concerned with mass-marketing to middle America would take the unformulaic real life out of it, and even nix the hightened moments in "Farewell to Rumi" that people experience in one or two illuminated moments in their lifetime... People want to see their special lifetime moments repeated. This script will retain its original voice, or I will bury it in my garden so that my flowers will be able to read it at night rather than use it to make a film that will simply be another Holyywood pimpish waste of money on something unimportant.

An important thing to remember here is that a film can be about Persian culture, the Iranian experience in America, as well as include other aspects of life in the human experience. "Farewell to Rumi" includes many universal elements.

Several film industry executives and non-film people have read the script for "Farewell to Rumi," and love it. Most have said that it will have a world-wide audience. Most say that there has never been a comparable film that has the reach and scope of "Farewell to Rumi." It represents an authentic and mostly true account of an Iranian family (based on my own personal experience) having to deal with being Iranian and yet also living in America. It present real-life prejudice, real life suffering and joy, as well as true surreal elements that utilize the visual beauty of film. This film is real, and people have commented that they feel the impact of the script in a very real deep rich place.

One thing I have learned about being a Persian in America, is that I don't make unequivocal judgements from simply reading a one page synopsis of a 95 page script. But, like I said earlier, I respect everyone's opinion, especially someone who may disagree with me, and their right to voice it.

I am thankful that I have received an overwhelmingly positive response to "Farewell to Rumi," and I want everyone who wants to help make this film a great sucess to be included in the film.

Perhaps one of the most important things that this story has to offer ALL people, Persians and non-Persians, is that it relays an experience of someone, the young protagonist of the story, and his attempt at holding onto who he authenticaly is as a person (which is a Persian-American), even though he feels like an outsider in a culture that appears not to accept him and in many clear instances doesn't. Everyone has felt like an outsider, whether you are overweight, blind, Persian, Chinese, deaf or someone who stutters, and fortunately, the American and world-wide movie-viewing public has already expressed its weariness at seeing the same old predictable Hollywood film, and wants to see films that does have an authentic true voice -- something that presents an original filmic vision, and even a film that does not conform to a few critics' or to anyone's expectations. I think the fact that almost all of the Oscars this year were given to independent films give solid evidence to my perspective.

"Farewell to Rumi" is an independent project that will present a great uniquely-voiced vision onto the screen, and fortunately for me and others who are Persian, one that will associate something positive with Iranians. I will proudly mention my Persianness at every opportunity. This film will showcase Persian artists, actors, musicans, and filmmakers, and will present aspects of Persian culture never before seen in America. Many film people, and especially Americans, oddly enough, have been excited about this film and the script, and believe that this is the sort of film that will get a lot of notice, and that "Farewell to Rumi" has a very good chance at screening at film festivals like Sundance.

A great film, is like a fresh new breath of life, or like... the entirety of ones life.. it is unpredictable and presents us with several magical surprises that cannot be summed up or especialy cannot be judged from a "cursory" reading or a one page summary. Thank God that all our lives are more than that.

"Farewell to Rumi" will be a great film... I will put every last ounce of my energies and talents to make sure it is.... I am not doing this for the money, and I will make this film even if I do not receive one penny from it... and because the script and story are in my heart, it will exude an enthusiastic truth and genuineness that will propel it to astounding places and it will be noticed. The heart (and a great script surrounded with people who really believe in a project ) is the best recipe for a successful film.

All the cynics in the world cannot stop a man and a film that moves ahead fueled by the honest energy of true passionate vision.

Khashyar Darvich

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Not the first film about Iranians abroad

From: Shirin Etessam shirine@cnet.com

"This would be the first film ever about Iranians outside of Iran, and certainly the first American film to give a positive impression of Iranians and Persian culture." - Scriptwriter-Director-Producer Khashyar Darvich

can i say this bugs me to no end. obviously he hasn't done his research. he is not the first or anywhere close to one of the first iranian filmmakers to make a film about iranians outside of iran.

there are iranian filmmakers around the world making films about iranians outside iran. my feature film dealt with iranians living in the u.s. and gave a 'positive impression of iranians and persian culture'. i do agree that we need more visibility and because of that i think his project is worthy. i find his story premise to be weak and cliche but i applaud any independent filmmaking endeavor and wish him much luck and faith.

because of the extreme difficulties involved in making a film, i think it crucial for iranian filmmakers to be aware of their peers and not create a competitive or disrespectful environment.

Shirin Etessam
Independent Filmmaker & Television Producer

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Offended by "terrorist" remarks

From: ? Eloy1997@aol.com

In a message dated 10/07/97 01:00:49, by Khashyar Darvich:

<< One of my main goals is to show the world that Iranians are people just like any other people, and not terrorists... >>

I found these comments exteremly insulting and felt very angry. I don't know who on earth is Khashyar Darvich, but he definitely needs to go back to school and learn a lot more about Iranians before making such stupid and low grading remarks...

Iranians don't need to prove anything to narrow-minded [people] like you or those surronding you. You [have] been pampered by the west for so long that you have forgotten your own culture and people. Read the ... American history a bit more and then you will find out who the real terrorist nations in this world are...

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Overwhelming support

From: Khashyar Darvich <WakanFilms@aol.com>
Producer /Director "Farewell to Rumi"

Thank you very much for offering to promote "Farewell to Rumi" in THE IRANIAN.

We have received overwhelming support for the project from the Iranian community, and continued support like yours will help make this film a tremendous success, especially in providing something for Persians to be proud of, as well as showcasing Iranian artists and culture to the world.

One of my main goals is to show the world that Iranians are people just like any other people, and not terrorists. We have a culture that is thousands of years old, and I will do everything in my power and will use all my abilities to raise positive awareness about the Persian culture and people.

With the overwhelming support from the Iranian community that we are receiving, as well as with the availability of other sources, I believe that we will reach the minimum $100,000 budget amount soon.

Thank you again for your support -- support like yours will make this film succeed, and will allow the Persian community to say to the world that we are talented people, like any other people are, and that we have something valuable to contribute to the world and to the culture of the United States.

Thank you, again,

Khashyar Darvich

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Criticism

From: Farhad Froozan phraates@juno.com

Even though the basic premise and motivating force behind this group's efforts are laudable (i.e. presenting Iranians and promoting Iranian cultural heritage in a stronger, more positive light), my cursory reading of Mr. Darvich's own synopsis of the scriptt leads me to shudder at the so-called "surreal" setting of Rumi (as a Lawrence of Arabia lookalike) and Melissa (?) riding off into the desert, probably into one of those proverbial orange-hued sunsets, or of his fantasies as an Ismaili assassin (what is a James Bond-like assassin, pray tell?).

The "partial exploration of the influence of extra-terrestrials". and the "meaning of life after death" are precisely those "inherently deeper values of Persian culture" which we want to broadcast to an already wary and distrustful American public!!

This film appears to be a rather hoakey and seriously corny New Age type concoction, and this, sadly enough, can be stated "without" a subsequent reading of the actual script!! (Mr. Darvich's own synopsis is sufficient!!). I'm a little surprised at Mr. Naderi for his apparent lack of judgement in associating himself with such a poor script.

Also, budgetary comparisons with films such as "The Wedding Banquet" and "The Brothers McMullen" are a little unfair as both of those films had very strong and socially relevant scripts, which guaranteed their success. Their social relevance to the American public was multi-faceted and covered socially "hot" topics like homosexuality, inter-personal relations, and inter-cultural differences. What little can be gleaned from Mr. Darvich's script does not, and will not convey any sense of social relevance to the American public. Sufi poetry (or Mr. Darvich's poetry notwithstanding, no matter how good), whirling dervishes, and fatalistic pronouncements of the "impermanence of life" are NOT socially relevant subject matters to create the type of response espoused by this group.

In conclusion, Mr. Darvich mentions that "the film also touches upon how an Iranian family deals with cultural prejudice in America". "Touches" mind you!! That is precisely the subject matter that would constitute a real "socially relevant" topic. If only he would rewrite a script based upon showing, or demonstrating such cultural prejudices and their impact upon a typical, average family of Iranian background. Something HONEST, without schmaltz or sudsy tears, then he might have a shot at that type of success which he yearns for.

Farhad Froozan

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