Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cyrus’ Awakening (1974): A Documentary by Enrique Meneses

Today we have a guest blogger, writing about a documentary on Iran from the 1970s. Our guest is Dr. Lidia Merás and the subject, Cyrus’ Awakening [watch here], a film made by her former neighbor and the renowned journalist Enrique Meneses:

Old school journalist Enrique Meneses, the person behind the famous pictures of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in Sierra Maestra (1958), visited Iran at least four times. The first visit was in 1958, after being expelled from Iraq following King Faisal II’s assassination. He returned in 1974 commissioned by Spanish Public television to make a reportage for the memorable series ‘Los reporteros’ [The reporters, TVE1].

Cyrus’ Awakening gives an in-sight on contemporary Iran in the aftermath of the oil-fueled ‘Green revolution’. Meneses interviewed Mohamed Reza Pahleví and the empress Farah Diba who were engaged in modernizing of the country (banning polygamy, granting women with the same rights than men and promoting contemporary art, among other contributions). After an historic introduction to Persia, the ancient name for Iran, the film outlines the country’s economy agenda and political alliances as well as some aspects on mass media, higher education, folklore, craftsmanship and religion…all in thirty minutes. Interestingly enough, Meneses explains some key ideas on Zoroastrian beliefs, whereas Shiite Islam is never mentioned.

Targeted to Spanish audiences who, at that time, were under Franco’s dictatorship, Meneses also talked off-record to university students in Teheran who denounced the government’s corruption and brutal police, but probably to avoid any parallelism to Spanish political situation, none of this footage –if ever filmed- appears in the documentary. In a more recent video recorded to introduce Cyrus’ Awakening Meneses wonders what would these same students –now parents and grandparents- think today about Pahleví’s regime considering that the Revolution brought the current government of mullahs.

This master of journalists covered Martin Luther’s King civil rights march, was a war correspondent in Sarajevo, Rodesia, Bangladesh and Angola, and traversed ten countries (20,000 Km) in Africa with his teenage daughters. Enrique Meneses was also a very active blogger until he died last January at 83. He was also, and for many years, my neighbor. His autobiography, Hasta aquí hemos llegado, is also, as it could not be otherwise, a manual of journalism. But his best recommendation could be summarized in one:

"Adventure is to put yourself into troubles to have the satisfaction to overcome them."

No doubt that he truly lived with that motto.


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