Our oldest son is an actor. When we left Iran, he was five years old. He did not attend school and did not learn to read or write in Farsi. When he chose the path of acting, many filmmakers assumed he would be fluent in Farsi. Growing up in the U.S., we kept speaking Farsi at home and he responded in English as soon as he attended daycare. He wanted to belong and be like his American friends. He did not show much interest in Farsi classes and chose not to attend.
In 2008, he informed us, he was going to be in a short 9 minute film directed by Jon Goldman. The film was about the U.S. Secretary of State, a woman, meeting with the Foreign Minister of Iran, a man in an unknown location to explore the possibility of diplomacy between the two countries after thirty years.
The writer / director had done a brilliant job in showing the tension between the two diplomats. The script was written in a profoundly clever language, to the point, witty and thought provoking.
Our son was playing the role of the interpreter for the U.S. diplomat.
The Farsi in the script was about politics and diplomacy, not ordinary conversation; a vocabulary our son had not been exposed to and had to memorize phonetically. This bright young man was amazing at speaking Farsi at a level he never heard before. My heart was smiling.
The short film received a worldwide recognition for its avant-garde topic, script, superb acting and directing. It was invited to the Paris Film Festival among many others worldwide.
When Jon informed us it was being shown in Paris. I Jumped! I was going to be in Paris visiting my mother, aunt and cousins at the same time.
“We will be there!” I shared with Jon.
Diplomacy was going to be shown on our son’s birthday. I was like a child going to Disneyland for the first time. Our son’s birthday is July 12th and France’s Independence Day is 14th of July. I was going to invite all of our family and friends in Paris to this event and support the film. Unfortunately, it was vacation time for many, and many were out of town.
We went with my mother, a friend from high school and two cousins who lived in Paris. I was filled with joy, happy that my family was able to see Omid’s performance at the festival, on his birthday! Was this all a coincidence? I asked myself.
We met Jon at the theater and met his parents for the first time. The huge theater was full. It was an occasion to celebrate. After we saw the movie, there was time for a Q & A with the director. I had a few questions yet my French was not good enough to ask questions. I thought I would ask my questions later. Then my mother said she wanted to ask a question. I was pleasantly surprised for this daring woman wishing to speak in a theater filled with Parisian art lovers.
I had the opportunity of visiting Paris many times having relatives there. I love speaking in French. It sounds like beautiful music to my ear.
In 1987, as one of the last things I did for myself before starting a family was living in Paris for three months and attending Alliance Française daily for 6 hours a day. I was determined to learn French.
My limited experience / exposure to Parisians was that like many metropolitan capital cities in the world, Parisians were in a hurry, seemed stressed, extremely well dressed and had an air of sophistication about them. They seemed to be knowledgeable about world affairs and carried an attitude of “better than thou”.
The appearances seemed to be essential and speaking with intelligence was highly valued. One’s way of communication appeared to determine the value of the person.
Before I knew it, my brave mother raised her hand indicating she had a question. Jon, knowing she was my mother invited her to speak. She said, in her broken English, she does not speak French nor English. She wants to speak in Farsi! She continued in English about the glory of the Persian Empire, history of Iran and about the U.S. government’s policies in Iran.
My internal process was of an intense and deep conflict. The struggle was to identify my inner feelings and trying to sort out what was going on within my psyche. On one hand, she seemed like Jane Eyre, the brave girl who spoke her mind, not intimidated by the Ego of those in authority. Part of me was admiring this amazing woman with a 6th grade education. I could see her potential and years of repressed needs and desires. It was like a volcano erupting, no longer able to hold the hot repressed lava inside. There was an opportunity and she took her chances.
Another part of me, perhaps the child in me felt embarrassed, a familiar painful feeling. My inner shame had been triggered. I was experiencing a shame attack. There were memories after memories in my mind of feeling shame related to choices she had made. There were times I wished she was not my mother. She did not seem to be aware of how her words and actions caused such deep pain in my sensitive, fragile heart.
I reminded myself in the darkness of that theater, she is a severely wounded child with untreated trauma in the body of an aging woman. Part of me wanted to act as if I am not with that woman and part of me wanted to salute her courage and cheer for her.
Yes, her comment was out of place. She really didn’t ask a question, she took charge of the place like an ego maniac who wanted to hear oneself speak in a narcissistic manner.
There was a moment of clarity. Yes, I understand where she is coming from. It was Now – or – Never for her to feel like a “Shooting Star”. Her grandson was on the big screen at the Paris Film Festival for God’s sake. Paris, the most beautiful and sophisticated capital of the world. Yes, perhaps she wondered if she had an opportunity to manifest her dreams?
I smiled and felt at peace with myself and with my beloved mother. I reminded myself, I am not responsible for her choices.
Jon Goldman respectfully, articulately and warmly stated he is a filmmaker, does not represent the U.S. government or its policies. I wondered how my life would have been different if I was raised by wise parents with his kind of wisdom.
Click the link below to view the short film “Diplomacy” by Jon Goldman.