TED Fellows Name a Hero: Taghi Amirani
Iranian Filmmaker Launching Debut Feature “Coup 53” Honoured at TED2103
Monday 25 February at TED2013 in Long Beach, Tom Rielly, TED Fellows and Community Director, did something unprecedented in the history of the Fellows Programme— he singled out one for recognition. Presenting the newly minted TED Fellows Hero award to Iranian-British filmmaker Taghi Amirani, he said, “This is the first time we’ve ever done this. Over the past years we’ve given the honorary Fellows awards to some of our incredible supporters. For the first time, we’re honouring an actual fellow. The recipient has no idea this is happening. Literally no idea. We call this award the TED Fellows Hero. This person has gone above and beyond in writing, participating, a certain amount of kvetching, mentoring younger fellows, convening Fellows retreats, offering his apartment, and taking them out for the best Persian food. He offers the yarn that helps knit the community together.”
Amirani, a Senior Fellow and Co-Founder of Amirani Media, who is currently working on mounting his first feature film, Coup 53 — the true story of Operation Ajax and the overthrow of Mossadegh in the CIA coup staged in Iran in 1953 — was shocked into uncharacteristic speechlessness. He managed only to croak, “This is a mind f***!”
Fellow Fellows chimed in on the roast
Rielly went on to share with the audience what some of Amirani’s colleagues on the Fellows programme have to say about him:
“If only everyone brought as much exuberance, intensity and joy to life as Taghi does, we’d live in a different world.” — Erik Hersman
“Taghi is like a cross between Picasso and a Jewish grandmother–his films are ambitious and brave, taking on hugely important political subjects, and he is the consummate host–who will nag you to try everything on your plate while throwing in a witty, eye-rolling joke or two.” — Nassim Aseffi
“Taghi has made my world a better place with his revealing and affectionate films, his whip-smart quick wit, his sexy photos of breakfast, and his under-rated dance moves. There’s a reason why he always looks like he’s got something up his sleeve.” — Candy Chang
“Few people have the guts to say what they want and what they mean without worrying if you’ll agree with them. Even fewer can make beautiful and brave films with that approach. Only one person has all these qualities and a shaved head so perfect it stands as a monument to cranial architecture. That person is Bruce Willis … And when he’s not available, that person is Taghi Amirani.” — Saeed Taji Farouky
“Taghi emanates everything delightful and delicious about the energy of the TED Fellows programme, but he also listens. Though serious about his work, he also can take the piss out of it. He’s contemplative but still playful. He’s engaged, generous, humble, and OK with not knowing.” — Jessica Green
Having regained his composure afterwords Amirani responded: The totally unexpected honour Tom and the TED Fellows bestowed on me and the love they so generously showered me with deserves a more eloquent and thoughtful response than the clumsy tongue-tied gibberish I blurted out. So let me make it right.
Tom has been a real friend, mentor and even a father figure, a creative and emotional inspiration right from day one when I joined the TED Fellows in 2009. I acquired an extended family of very talented and remarkable people, leading to precious friendships that will last well beyond TED. As a filmmaker, my source of inspiration, the raw material of my craft, is people — their stories, hearts and minds. It’s the human relationships that I find incredibly enriching amongst the Fellows, people who have given me more than they can ever imagine. If they have seen any spark in me it’s because they have been the catalyst.
Becoming a TED Fellow encouraged me to think big and reach beyond myself. Even though I’ve made some 40 documentaries in 20 years, making Coup 53 is like starting from scratch. A daunting prospect. Who in their right mind would take the first few minutes of Ben Affleck’s Argo, the back-story set up, and expand it into a full feature documentary? And yet that is the story that must be told. It’s the heartbreaking story of an entire nation, the consequences of which continue to ripple through our world. If you really want to understand the current US-Iran stand off, you need to know about Mossadegh’s story. I have lived with it most of my life and it will be my Battle of Algiers meeting Gandhi.
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