Ahmad Shamlu: Master poet of Liberty

A documentary film


With: Aida Shamlu, Simin Behbahani, Mahmud Dolatabadi, Mohammad Ghazi, Mohammad Hoghughi, Abbas Kia-Rostami, Javad Mojab, Zia Movahed, Esmail Nuri-Ala, M Sepanlu, Pouran Solatani, Nasser Taghva’i.

Executive Producer: Behruz Maghsudlu, Akbar Ghahary.

Director: Moslem Mansuri

Producer: Bahman Maghsudlu


A documentary on the life, art and thoughts of the contemporary Iranian poet and writer, Ahmad Shamlu was shown for the first time on April 18 at the behest of the Association of Iranian Writers in Exile. This one-hour documentary, was completed in 1999 and was shown when the Swedish academy gave its highest literary prize to Shamlu, whose poems can be said to have given life to thousands Iranians. The film has also been shown in two North American festivals, CIRA and MESA, and in several universities including Harvard, Columbia, North Carolina, Chicago, Washington DC, Baltimore, Ottawa, and Montreal where it was given critical acclaim.

This was perhaps the first time that the Iranian documentary cinema made a film of a prominent personality and a contemporary poet during their life. Shamlu’s literary works, both poetry and translations, have made him one of greatest cultural and literary influences, particularly on the Iranian left.


Shamlu was born in 1925. His life coincided with the period of radical reform in Farsi poetry – a process that began with the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-6 and to which Shamlu was a major contributor. Shamlu is prominent both as a great historical literary figure and a major poet. His historic contribution to the reform of Farsi poetry has been a subject of numerous books. But it is his eminence as a national poet that sets him apart as Iran’s offering to world literature. Shamlu’s poetic vision accords with both Western and modernist concepts as well as the modern transformation of classical Farsi poetry. As a humanist and a socially conscious intellectual, he has skilfully woven personal love and affection with social attitudes. His poetry exudes both hope and a passion for justice:


Dry path, all through life

Having been born with a cry

In a hatred

Turning on itself.


Thus was the

Great absence.

Thus was

The story of the ruin.


If only freedom

Could sing a song

Small, smaller even ...

Than the throat of a bird.


Ahmad Shamlu


Some quotes from the film

Abbas Kia-Rostami (writer/filmmaker): After 30 years of work… Shamlu has arrived at such credibility in his work that confirmation or denial of anyone can take away, or add nothing, to that credibility.


Zia Movahhed (poet/philosopher): Anyone who reads Fresh air today can see that … this language, this texture, is different from anything else. Poetry without metrical structure… but musical nevertheless… Poetry that does not have prosodic rhythm. But has natural rhythm. In contemporary poetry, few have accomplished this kind of rhythm as Shamlu has. Fresh Air was the greatest event in our poetry – after Hafiz.


Esmail Nuri-Ala (poet/critic/literary historian): If the Persian language was a Latin language, his name would have been familiar to all poetry-reading public in the world… and it would have been a name as great as Neruda and Lorca.


Abbas Kia-Rostami: instead of making any comments about Shamlu’s poems I should just read them, and in this way …. pay my respects and my dues to a poet who… wrote poetry for 30-40 years and lived poetically:


I have never dreaded Death

Though its hands

have always been


More fragile than banality;

My fear, however,

was of dying in a land

where grave diggers’ wage

is higher than the price of


human freedom.


Searching, finding and then

choosing with freedom:

Turning the essence of oneself

into a fort.


Even if there were more value

to death than all this ….

I deny that I had ever

dreaded death.

            Ahmad Shamlu



The documentary will be shown again in London and other European cities in June.

Compiled by Parvaneh Soltani