- Afro-Iranian Lives by Behnaz Mirzai, and ; The African-Baluchi Trance Dance by Behnaz Mirzai
While historical research regarding the Iranian Persian Gulf and its people, especially Afro-Iranians, remains in its early stages, documentary filmmakers have demonstrated greater interest in this topic. Generally speaking, such documentary films are self-financed and have mostly been made by those who have a special interest in one of the many ethnographical topics of these regions of Iran. The majority of such films have been made by professional documentary filmmakers (rather than researchers) in search of historical and archaeological evidence of the Iranian Persian Gulf.
One of the best examples of this category is Persian Sea made by M. Tayyab.1 This documentary is a lengthy film in which the film director travels with his camera all over the Iranian Persian Gulf, its ports and islands, and introduces us to the culture, traditions and ethno-historical background of each region. Many of the documentarists have also focused on the traditional mode of life of fishermen and their fishing techniques. The best examples of such films are A Fishing Journey by E. Mokhtari2 and Pir-e Hara by M. Sheykholeslami.3 Since the end of the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88), many filmmakers have also endeavoured to capture that human disaster and its effect on the life of local people of the Iranian Persian Gulf, its cities, villages and shores; Iran Southwestern by M.R. Fartousi4 and Noah's Ark by S. Babagap5 are certainly the best examples in this category. Some other documentarists have also concentrated on the traditional life of people of [End Page 323] these regions from the perspective of Islam, gender issues and family difficulties. The pioneer of this genre of documentary is M. Oskoui with his eminent film The Other Side of the Burka.6
Besides the above-mentioned topics, one of the main genres of documentary films with regard to the Iranian Persian Gulf should be considered those with a particular interest in religious rituals and healing ceremonies. Contrary to the above-mentioned categories, most of the documentaries of this genre focus their attention on Afro-Iranian communities with a particular interest in Zar, which is one of the two types of exorcism ceremonies that exist in Iran.7 N. Tagvaie, with his film Wind of the Jin,8 should be considered the first Iranian filmmaker to have made a documentary about the harshness of life among the poor people of the southern Iranian coastline and how such healing rituals can cure them. For the first time in this film we are confronted with Afro-Iranians (Black people), who participate in such healing rituals. Taghvaie's Wind of the Jin has played an essential role in the history of Iranian cinematography and become a good example for other filmmakers in using the Zar ceremony in their films with the presence of Afro-Iranians.9
One recent documentary film in which we can see a combination of all the above topics, but with a special interest in Afro-Iranian communities and fishermen in the south of Iran, is The Refrain of Locked Lenjs made by M. Omidvari.10 Finally, mention must be made of a very recent film made by F. Varahram specifically on Afro-Iranians of the Persian Gulf, entitled Black People in the South of Iran.11
Behnaz Mirzai's films, Afro-Iranian Lives and The African-Baluchi Trance Dance, have a major difference with the above-mentioned films; Mirzai is a scholar and historian of African Slavery in the Indian Ocean and its connectivity within the Iranian plateau and enjoys a deep knowledge of this subject. However, she has no background in filmmaking and in her two documentary films she clearly ignores this crucial fact. [End Page 324]
Her two films are indeed important contributions to this field of research and could be used as...