A night at the Oscars

And the Oscar goes to...


A night at the Oscars
by Jeesh Daram

The weather could have not been any better for the invited guests, the spectator crowd and photographers from across the globe during the 80th Annual Academy Awards, held at Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California, last night.

Hosted by Senator Barack Obama the Presidential hopeful for the Democratic Party, it was the first time ever, that a US Senator entertained the Academy Awards crowd. With his bizarre sense of humor, Obama captured the audience and brought them to laughter and standing ovations with humor and punch lines that matched the most celebrated of all hosts such as Billy Crystal and other comedians such as Ronald Reagan and Whoopi Goldberg.

The highlight of the evening was when the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film was announced. There were total of eight nominees for this category:

The Wall in My Land” from Palestine, a condemnation of the wall of hatred.
In Oil We Trust” France, an unauthorized biography of U.S. V.P., Dick Cheney.
We Build for Obsolescence” from China, a confession about Chinese products.
Days of Rum and Cigars” from Cuba. Will an Islamic Republic happen in Cuba?
Child Molestation” from United Arab Emirate. The child traffic boom in UAE.
Weapons of Mass Delusion” from USA. The rise and fall of George W. Bush
We are all Gays” from England. Tony Blair philosophizes about life in Britain.

But, beating all the odds, it was the 36 year old Iranian born, Pantheon Xeroxes and her 110 minutes documentary called “Iran, Land of Hydraulic Cranes” that won the Oscar last night for the best foreign language film...

Born in Tehran as Zahra Hazrati Islampanah, she fled Iran at the tender age of 25 as a passenger in a British Air Lines flight from Tehran to Stockholm. Upon arrival she dyed her hair blonde and changed her name to Pantheon Xeroxes to better blend with the Swedish crowd. The name Xeroxes does not refer to the ancient Persian king Xerxes, and indeed it’s a generic name for the famous photocopy maker Xerox and mistakenly appears as an anagram of the king’s name. According to Pantheon, she chose that last name because she liked it and it had nothing to do with any king. The Xerox machine in the hands of people was an enemy of state. In the absence of free press, Xerox gave people the freedom to express and propagate their feelings towards the establishment.

Thus, using a photocopy machine without prior authorization became a felony during the first decade of the Revolution. Vendors were forced to install cameras above the machines to monitor the traffic. It took four secret service agents to allow the operation of each machine. The agents simply sat next to the machines and played backgammon until a customer would show up. While this eventually proved to be an overdone security measure by the government, nonetheless, the hiring of guards to monitor the photocopy machines boosted the employment substantially across the nation and reduced paper usage drastically for obvious reasons and thereby the preservation of forests by saving trees.

According to French tabloids, Pantheon’s departure from Iran was rumored to have not been an escape and she was a mere ticketed passenger and this was her third visit to a European city. This allegation she vehemently denied during her interview with Vanity Fair last December. She explained in her interview, that she hiked through many mountains north of Tehran and Dizin and Shemshak and other ski resorts, until she arrived to Istanbul, Turkey, a truly amazing journey if searched and looked up on Google Map, as being one of the favorite tourist routes in the country.

In the Hollywood style of film noir and crime dramas, with emphasis on sexual ambiguity and dark pains of a society, Xeroxes has depicted the pain and sufferings of people in her native country Iran, also known as Persia, depending on which Iranian you stop on the street to ask for the name of their country.

In fact the documentary’s opening shot describes the old Persia as land of “Flower and Bulbul” a songbird (Pycnonotus barbatus) a nightingale. The camera zooms into a garden with many birds singing and a large pasture with thousands of wild flowers gently dancing in the breeze on a cloudy day and one can clearly see in the distance, an old man urinating behind a tree and shaking himself up and down to get the very last drop out of his mind; a breathtaking scene by any standard.

Yet, the entire movie is shot in black and white, with tight perspectives, sharp corners and shifting camera angles. The documentary shifts from depiction of prosperity of some people, to the austerity of others. Homeless children drift on wet and slippery sidewalks and sharp objects poking into the viewfinder from time to time and then on another scene, young teenagers are skiing in northern Tehran, a sign of affluence.

Pantheon leaves no chance for the audience to brace and prepare themselves for what is to come next. The second shot is a transition from the flower pasture and fades out to aerial view of a huge crowd gathered in a soccer stadium in Tehran, paradoxically named “Azadi Stadium” or Freedom. The huge and growing crowd in the stadium is preparing itself to watch a young woman and two young men to be executed by being hanged from three hydraulic cranes!

The public is quite unconcerned about the nature of the crimes that were committed by the three convicts. What brought them here again, is the adrenaline rush that one gets to experience watching another human being hanged, like watching a bullfight with a grand finale, the killing of a lion at point blank, suffocation of a deer by a hyena, the sound of a human's bone snaping and joints shattering in someone’s skull and neck and the sensation of being able to walk back home satisfied, that I am alive, oh god, others die for their deeds and their sins and I am alive and I made it through another day. I am a blessed soul.

The roaring and thunderous sounds of thousands of people gathered to watch the execution has similar effect on the audience as the chariot race in the 1959 movie Ben-Hur. Yet in place of Cesar of the Rome, you see a heavily bearded clergy, an Ayatollah sitting in the VIP area, smoking hookah and surrounded by no less than fifty bodyguards all in black uniforms and wearing black ski masks. The ski masks are the symbol of Iran’s prosperity and progress. This shows that Iran indeed has many ski resorts. So much so, that a secret service agent can go on skiing during his lunch break and not even remove his mask while back to work. This is the “cool” harvest and dividend of the Revolution.

In an interview with Guardian, when asked, why she chose this subject for her documentary, Xeroxes responded “I want the World to realize what goes on in my country”. Admittedly, despite the fact that close to thirty years has past since the Iranian Revolution, you can still stop someone on any street in western hemisphere to ask where Iran is located on the map and most people have very little idea or at least can not locate it on the map.

In the same shot, the camera angle descends and flows through a group of young men and women all having their cell phones and digital cameras ready to photograph the macabre, chilling and gruesome execution event. The noise level becomes numbing, vendors selling fast food out of their pushcarts, barbecued liver and roasted corn, cooked lima beans, baked and roasted beets and other local favorite baked turnips! If one is unaware, that this is the judgment day for a doomed woman and two men, he might think this is the crowd before a soccer game begins, in any town in South America.

In another scene taken inside the crowd, you hear vendors yelling and pushing their merchandise, steaming baked beets shining and glistening under their gas lamps and people chatting in Persian, their native language. Speaking of that, Iranians abroad are quite polarized as what to call their native language. Some call it Farsi, others Parsi and the rest wants it to be known as Persian. They waste a lot of time and energy convincing each other, without paying attention to what the authorities in the field of language and linguistics have advised.

It took ten years for Pantheon Xeroxes to make her documentary! What makes this documentary very unique and novel, both technically and of the subject matter, is the brilliant idea she implemented on how to capture the shots without herself being in Iran.

Being banned from returning to Iran, she decided to transform her audience and the people to become her cameramen and camerawomen. To implement the idea, she raised money in Sweden and was able to buy more than three hundred cell phones with cameras and some low priced digital cameras and gave them to friends to take to Iran and distribute them among their friends and family. Each person was responsible for specific shots and angles. Some to climb trees and electric poles for aerial shots, while others were assigned to interview cab drivers, family of the victims and the convicts, the clergies, the prostitutes, the homeless and the affluent class. All such short movie clips were then downloaded into a computer and emailed to her address in Sweden! Indeed, quite clever and the first movie of its kind ever. For ten years, short movie clips and emails kept arriving and she was hard at work for editing the scenes and creating her story.

In total, she and her colleagues, have captured and documented more than fifty such executions by hanging, stoning and other forms of punishments in the streets of Tehran and other cities in Iran.

During her Oscar appearance last night, six feet tall and slender, Pantheon Xeroxes was dressed elegantly in another masterpiece creation by Donatella Versace. The black and red gown was half Islamic “chador” and the other half a strapless bead-encrusted gown made of red lingerie fabrics and covered with sheer wrap, revealing her shoulders, thighs and beyond, with substantial peek-a-boo effect. This became the favorite and most exotic of all dresses for the paparazzi to photograph. The black chador covered half of her head and her body and the other half of her head had a fashionable tiara made by Tiffany and dotted with precious stones. Half of her face was hidden and the other half with beautiful hues of pink make up, truly an amazing visual effect reflecting a divided society and social clash of today’s Iran.

While silent clips of her documentary were being cast on a huge silver screen in the background she accepted the Oscar with tears in her eyes:

I am speechless! I am indebted to so many selfless men and women of Iran who risked their lives to take so many of these shots with their small digital cameras and or cell phones and send them to me. This Oscar belongs to all of you.”

She continued:

“I wish they could be here, my dear mom and dad, who believed in me, their only surviving child and supported me no matter what. I also thank my stillborn brother who is in an alcohol-filled jar as a fetus at University of Tehran's School of Medicine, the only one in my family lineage that made it to a medical school.

She wiped off some of the tears with a handkerchief that was handed to her by her escort on the stage, Jennifer Lopez. She then continued:

I also have to give credit and recognition in a very nauseating and sick way, to the influential Ayatollahs and their roles and functions in today’s Iran, enabling me to win the Oscar, Ayatollah Nategh Noori, Mesbah (aka Temsah) Yazdi, Ayatollah Shahroudi and their leader Seyed Ali Khamenhi, whom by their actions, verdicts and policies made this documentary a viable reality.

The audience gave her a standing ovation, some in tears, some just watching and others sipping on their champagne while a few left the auditorium. She went on:

I also have to thank and express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to certain multi-national organizations: The Free Masonry Grand Lodge of Assad Abaadi, Members of Ekhvanol-Moslemin or the London Chapter of Islamic Brotherhood, members of Sepah Pasdaran and Hezbollah office in Tehran. In their own way of brutality, savagery and extreme measures of criminal activities in Iran, they were so instrumental to the success of this documentary; I could have not done it without them and words can not explain my feelings towards them.

She wiped more tears, but offered a smile:

And last but not least, I have to thank a few manufacturers of those hydraulic cranes, such as Komatsu, Alice Chalmers, Caterpillar and John Deer. Without their hydraulic cranes the Iranian government would be forced to use the old savage ways of hanging the convicts from trees and electric poles, your technology is well adapted and utilized in my homeland, and now anyone can be hanged in an efficient and humane way and justice for all. God bless you all. Thank you

The audience gave her another standing ovation and while raising the Oscar above her head, the tall Iranian Pantheon Xeroxes walked away gracefully to join the audience.

The audience then sat in silence and watched in shock and horror, the last part of the documentary sample footage with a wonderful and powerful sound effect:

A mother is holding her baby and she looks pensive and sad. The baby has her finger in her nose and gazed look in her eyes. An old man puffing on his cigarette and shaking his head in astonishment and a young boy’s eyes are pinned into the covered eyes of the condemned woman standing on a an empty barrel with rope around her neck waiting for the execution order to come from the Ayatollah in the VIP section. An eerie and spine-chilling silence takes over the stadium for a few seconds.

Suddenly camera moves fast over the crowd’s heads, everything moves fast and out of focus and then the camera zooms into the Ayatollah’s right hand. A thumb down by the Ayatollah, authorizing the executions, the crowd roars like a thunder and women scream, the stadium trembles and masked soldiers fully dressed in black, kick the empty barrels away from underneath of the convicts’ feet, and the three bodies fall and suspend into the air with their hands tied behind their back and their eyes blindfolded. They fight vehemently for the very last breath while their necks crush and suddenly no more movement in their bodies and life is terminated. The tumultuous crowd roars loudly Alaho akbar, Alaho Akbar, Alaho Akbar, ‘god is great’ and the Ayatollah waves at the crowd with a white handkerchief and a fading smile.

The crowd is silent, the camera’s view moves towards the sky which is covered with dark clouds and then a soft drizzles starts and people begin leaving the stadium before the heavy rain comes .…the bodies are still hanging in the air and the documentary ends...


Recently by Jeesh DaramCommentsDate
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بهار ایرانی
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more from Jeesh Daram
Rosie T.

I would like to suggest....

by Rosie T. on

that in the case of artwork, the public comments are best used for kudos and the constructive criticism is best given privately, at the contact button for registered users and/or the message center.  It is easier to be frank there, and easier for the artist to assimilate the critiwue.  I think the critique is healthy and necessary, but better privately.  Tone of course must be watched, but hey, so many people think I have an arrogant tone...and you know, to some extent, we are what we are...

so may I exhort you Salar to register yourself. SO MANY BENEFITS.  So easy to do, costs nothing, takes five mintues, then you protect your cybername, get to track your own and other posts, contact people privately, flag abusive posts, you're automatically set up to make blog entries and articles....nothin' wrong with chicken but...why not be...a...Bird of Paradise...or...a....Phoenix....or a...Simorgh?

 ...Needless to say, polemical, journalistic and historical writings should be assiduously criticized publicly....that's what they're here for...



Mazloom Nama

by Salar (not verified) on

“removing our garments and exposing us in his own unique way”, Mazloom, have you been living under a rock for the past 30 years? We have been stripped naked, hung upside down and flogged in town square for the past 30 years, and now left for the vultures to finish it off. We need no more stripping, we have gotten enough of that from our enemies, foreign and domestic, we need to empower our people and culture. No more “what”, now we need to discuss “why” and “how”. we all know more or less about the problems, put in satirical forms or not, let’s focus on causes creating those problems and more importantly solutions.

Let’s not muddy the waters here, I have the utter most respect for Jeeshi, and I believe he has the potential to take his writings a few notch higher by focusing more on critical issues and then searching for possible solutions. Actually, that is an obligation for anybody who possesses that level of talent and understanding, I have read great great articles from him, so I know he is very much capable of it. But, lately he has focused more on stripping and garment issues as Mazloom would put it, and I wanted to express my opinion. Hey, after all that’s the main purpose of this comments section, isn’t it? I wasn’t aware that you need to leave a list of your published articles and Pulitzer awards when you leave a comment here.


To salar of pretentiousness

by Mazloom on


Constructive criticism is an oxymoron. My ex-wife used to give me constructive criticism against my will till I was reduced to nothing but her servant. By pretending to be a nice critic you are giving Jeesh instruction in what to write, about who to write, and whom to write it for. Please “advise” yourself, if you or any capable satire or serious writer out there wants to be on the side of the “oppressed” and wants to “fight the oppressor” do it in your own way and leave this man alone with your phony cordiality.

Jeesh Daram is one of the greatest and most intelligent satire writers of our time. He is removing our garments and exposing us in his own unique way. You are the “hopelessly pointless and superficial” one, and on top of that you’re pretentious. You pretend to know it all but we have no clue of your literary contribution to this site or anywhere else, while Jeesh has been consistently and hilariously posting his article here in this site for the last couple of years.

Give reference to what you have written so we know where you are coming from before you cast judgment on others.

UNLESS Jeesh knows who you are through other channels, then that would be a completely different story.


Jeeshi Jan

by Salar (not verified) on

Interesting writing but kind of self-contradicting, paradoxical in itself as the picture it tries to portray of Iranian society and culture and overall, hopelessly pointless and superficial. I liked your articles in distant past as they used to be closing in on some real issues and progress eloquently toward possible practical solutions. I used to even email them to friends in Iran. But recently it seems you are diverging from that path and lowering your standards, ranting about any and every issue and whatever comes up. An obvious observation is that your recent English articles have plummeted even much more in intellectual level, perhaps it is a necessary adjustment you have realized you ought to do for obvious reasons for your non-Parsi/Farsi/Persian speaking audience (I know it’s hard to deal with that crowd) . I just hope unlike the satirical criticism you do on these three words in your articles (apparently signifying/describing the divide among Iranians in a condescending way that should be considered ridiculous and pointless since our western linguistic scholars profess a different doctrine on this issue, because you know, they know our culture better than we do), in reality you know the social and cultural meanings and identities each one stands for and their differences. My advice to you, and I say this as a constructive criticism and because I know you are worth saying it to and want the old jeesh back, DON’T criticize and patronize your own people and culture because of what they have been forced into to do or be, DO it to the ones who have forced them into this position. FIGHT the oppressor, NOT the oppressed.

Rosie T.

Mojo, groove, pinache, oommph, chutzpah, salsa y sabor...

by Rosie T. on

nori rolls...all that stuff I got back.  And I got my NAZ back too!

Que duermas con los angeles, mi cielo!
Rosie Tozih
Explanation of Whatever


Rosie T. are sure it was

by Nadias on

your mojo you got back? Perhaps it was your grooove back. :o)

Yeah, I like Rosie T. has her grooooooooove back. :o)


PS: It is the influence of the Tylenol in me speaking. My little arm/leg will be fine. It sure is tougher to type. :o)

Buenas noches Rosita

Rosie T.

Well I can certainly see your point, omidahasato-san

by Rosie T. on

but I didn't hold a tir-baraan to jishi's head and MAKE him change it, so go complain to the head of this sushi joint and stop busting my nori rolls, will you?


Madame Butterfly in the Ointment

(Hey, I think I got my mojo back!)  :D

Omid Hast

Rosie T.: Tanks for deh lesson in Engeleesh

by Omid Hast on


I Tink deh “the” in deh “Iran, THE Land of Hydraulic Cranes” Vas perfectly fine coming from Xeroxes. It Vas not from you, a perfectly EspeEking EngElEEsh professor. It Vas a name chosen by Xeroxes whose EngElEEsh is not as good (well) as me and you (you and me). I have been EspeEking Dis language for over Tirty five years and I Estill don’t understand Vhere it is required to use “the”, and Vhere it is not. But Tanks for deh lesson anyVay :O)

Rosie T.

Jishi (Japanese version of your name)....

by Rosie T. on

I didn't get what you sent me. Please go to your message box and there is my e-mail and you can re-send it directly there.  Unless it was just a perfunctory thanx, in which case, no need.  I"ll understand.


PS As for Xeroxes, give her a hair of the dog that bit her.  They tell me it works every time.  In her case, a good stiff bottle of  toner might do.

Jeesh Daram

thank you Rosie

by Jeesh Daram on

I appreciate the explanation, and I sent you a separate thank you note to your box as well. As for Xeroxes, I will pass along your kind remarks to her, she is still recovering from the hangover.

Rosie T.

Jeesh Daari, dearie,

by Rosie T. on

I'm honored that you took my advice on the article in your article. Your English is near perfect but I'm told your Persian writing is EXQUISITE. Still your English is that excellent that you GOT IT...absolutely...Iraaaaaaan...laaaaaand of hydraaaaulic craaanes....the vastness of it stretches before you from the gulf to the deserts to the Alborz to the caviar of the caspian...."the land" limits and restricts...that is why "the" belongs grammatically in the family of adjectives called "determiners"...it...determines things... Damet garm, and give my best to Xeroxes, she too deserves our prayers, yours aetheistic and mine aesthetic

Ayatollah Rosie Tozih

Explanation of Prayershawls

Rosie T.

Yes, I love this Jeesh, it's...

by Rosie T. on

wonderful.  I know that sometimes when I REALLY like something I'm so busy reacting to it, whether it's comic or tragic, that I don't leave a post.  And I've also noticed that sometimes people tell me in the middle of oh god knows what some thread on public sanitation or whatnot that they read everything I write and are very influenced by it...and I bet that's what happens to you...only you don't "thread" as much as me so you don't get to hear all the kudos..I bet people are too busy laughing and crying and not knowing which one they should do to say anything...but this is wonderful...

I even just told "Xerxes"  on another thread to come here and meet his sister Xeroxes.  I wish I could come up with another one along those lines...but I can't....


PS  Drop the article...I mean the article "the":  The title should be:  IRAN, LAND OF HYDRAULIC CRANES...or ETERNAL IRAN, LAND OF HYDRAULIC CRANES...or MY NAME IS IRAN, LAND OF HYDRAULIC CRANES...just riffing...


Excellent work...............

by Nadias on

Thank you for your continued contributions. I have enjoyed your English writings. My good friend tells me your Persian/Farsi writings are just as excellent.



Brilliantly funny and sad at

by Majnoon (not verified) on

Brilliantly funny and sad at the same time.


Very nicely done

by Ramin (not verified) on

Very nicely done Jeesh Daram.
Reality is more absurd than fiction, but a good work of fiction is like a good portrait, you can pick up the painting from the floor by grabbing the subject’s painted nose!
Elements of it remind me of one of my own short stories “Messiah’s Cousin”.
I almost fell for its authenticity and in my Eureka moment sighed alas it is true!

mash mandali

Sad yet funny AND powerful !

by mash mandali on

I went back and forth couple times, couldn't decide what part is the highlight of the piece, you managed another masterpiece my friend.



writing in English keeps Haji away , writing in Paarsi keeps Nosie.T away, I'm confused  which one to promote. 



Congrads to Xeroxes...

by jamshid on

... And thank you for voicing Iran's pain in your movie.

I was glued to the article to the last word. I am sure there will soon be (or already is?) some links for clips of her movie. It must be painful to watch.

Nazy Kaviani


by Nazy Kaviani on

Dear Jeesh Daram:

What a powerful piece. Extremely funny, witty, and sad at the same time. I find your intelligence and brand of humor completely irresistible to read, whether you write it in Farsi or in English. Time and again, you have intelligently located and identified the paradoxes and contradictions in Iranian culture and dialogue among the Iranian community in diaspora. One can't argue with the examples of exaggerated behavior and appearances our fellow countrymen and women display in their new communities, often times only bringing attention to themselves and not to the issues they claim to be championing.

But I should also add that in my opinion your view to Iranians both inside and outside Iran is not a very kind one. A fair view cannot be of only sarcasm and skepticism about motives, demeanor, and perceptions. I do believe for every self-promoting Iranian claiming to be a tortured and bereft person representing a whole nation, while tooting his/her own horn, there are thousands of other patriotic, intelligent, and unsung Iranians who truly love Iran and care about its future, treading their "ambassdorship" waters carefully and sensitively. You, yourself, are one of them. Thank you for provoking thought, adding intelligence to the dialgues, and bringing so much flavor to the table. Good going.

Omid Hast


by Omid Hast on