• Shahr-e Ghesseh [City of Tales]
    Bijan Mofid
    Samira Daneshvar & Adam Longenbach

Bijan Mofid, “Shahr-e Ghesseh [City of Tales],” 1969. Film still. Courtesy Manoto TV

Recognized as an important work of modern Iranian art, the 1969 film Shahr-e Ghesseh [City of Tales] weaves social and political criticism with satire through adaptations of traditional Persian music and folk tales set in the heart of global architectural heritage: the ancient Citadel of Bam. Created by the Iranian modernist playwright Bijan Mofid (1935–1984), the film boldly critiqued the pre-1978 sociopolitical tensions that shaped present-day Iran. The mythical town that Mofid portrays is populated by various animals, each representing a certain social and labor class in pre-revolution Iran. The film’s critical stance toward the religious turn in Iranian politics—especially as certain phrases from the film became rallying cries after the 1978 revolution—resulted in strict censorship and restricted access to the archives and historical documentation of this seminal work. However, original copies of the film and its script have escaped the country. Shahr-e Ghesseh has incidentally become one of the last documentations of its important film site, the Citadel of Bam, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was destroyed by an earthquake in 2003. Ultimately, the film is essential to understanding modern Iran and its ancient architecture. This project brings Shahr-e Ghesseh to English-speaking audiences for the first time.

Samira Daneshvar is a PhD candidate in theory and history of architecture at Harvard University and a scholar in residence at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. She joined the design discipline after five years of medical studies in Iran. Daneshvar explores key episodes in the histories of science, media, and environment, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with a particular interest in materiality. Her research is supported by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, and Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies. Independent of her doctoral work, Daneshvar is interested in preservation of historical and cultural objects and practices. Her writings have appeared in Winterthur PortfolioThresholdsInformaInflection Journal, and Centre. She has exhibited her work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Keller Gallery, Fashion Art Toronto, University of Texas at Austin, and Carleton University.

Adam Longenbach is a PhD candidate in architecture and urban planning at Harvard University. His research explores the mid-twentieth century entanglement of wartime policies and agencies, mass media technologies, and racial tensions that led to the production of military “mock villages.” Longenbach’s work has been supported by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Minmin Zeng Innovative Doctoral Student Research Fund, the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the Graham Foundation’s Carter Manny Award program. His writing can be found in ThresholdsThe Avery Review, and Log, among others.