The Story of a Flag

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This film is about an Iranian group working on stage photography. They decide to work on a photo taken by Joe Rosenthal called “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima”.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Seyyed Ehsan Bagheri, Photography Director: “To the camera! Three …Two …One …”

“Staged photography is a photography genre, very popular throughout the world. But unfortunately, because of its high cost and great difficulties, this genre is not that popular in Iran.”

Still on screen: The Age of Waiting, A staged photography (based on the miniature painting “The Evening of Ashura” by Mahmoud Farshchian)

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Seyyed Ehsan Bagheri, Photography Director: “In this photography genre, what happens in a film scene happens here too with this difference that the outcome will be just one single photo. Given that the cost of stage designing, costume designing, lighting, make-up and other things is high and the outcome is just a single photo, organizations are balking at investing on such projects and it’s difficult to convince them.

The effect of this genre of photography, that is staged photography, can be very amazing. The photographer sets the stage like a director and puts whatever concepts he or she wants in the heart of the stage. After the direction, he or she takes their desired scene and shows the outcome to the audience.”

My new project which is about one of the famous photos in the world showing the raising of a US flag in Iwo Jima has attracted attention.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Seyyed Ehsan Bagheri, Photography Director: “This photo was taken on February 23, 1945 in the Japanese island of Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal during WWII.

Joe Rosenthal went to the island of Iwo Jima with a group of US soldiers. At that point, 22,000 Japanese soldiers were fighting with 50,000 US soldiers.

Joe Rosenthal was taking pictures as US soldiers decided to inform other fellow soldiers of their situation in the island, so they decided to raise a flag on Suribachi Hill on Iwo Jima. Five soldiers and a war physician went up the hill. They found a 6-meter pole and a flag among their stuff and tried to raise it on top of the hill. In the meanwhile, Joe Rosenthal began to take pictures of the scene.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Joe Rosenthal, Photographer, US Army: “I can’t get away from great feeling of grabbing mother earth and the first feeling of what am I doing here, I was coming up toward the brow of the hill. And I went up, not knowing what kind of a picture I would get. And I said, what is doing, fell as? And they said to me something like, we are preparing to raise this bigger flag. They had just lifted the pole off the ground and it was on its way up. I swung my Graphic around close up to my face and held it watching through the finder to see when I could estimate what is the peak of the picture. And I thought it should look good. And I had no; I wasn’t referring to, even in my own mind, first, the importance of first flag, second flag. I wanted a flag going up on Iwo, and I wanted it badly. And I could only hope that it turned out the way that I looked at it through the finder.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Seyyed Ehsan Bagheri, Photography Director: “Three men in the picture didn’t live to see the picture itself. They were killed in the war. However, three survived to see it later. The picture won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize and became very famous soon. 137 million postage stamps were issued and many coins were minted bearing the image of the picture and based on it a sculpture was made to be put in Arlington National Cemetery. In addition, many artistic works were made based on the picture because of its importance and significance. In brief, this picture became the symbol of US supremacy and national pride. That’s while this raising US flag is during the country’s invasion of Japan and this is curious and needs attention. This picture was on my mind for a few years.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Seyyed Ehsan Bagheri, Photography Director: “I liked to work a new picture based on it. This way, the idea of “The Story of a Flag” came to my mind.

After the idea of this work took shape, I consulted different groups whom I thought could help me take this picture. I researched a lot into the subject. The work needed stage and costume designing as well as very serious special lighting.

We worked a lot along with different people; we had different discussions, investigations and talks. Many believed that the work had to be done mainly through special effects because it was very difficult to have it otherwise but I didn’t want to use special effects in this work as far as possible.

We selected the members of the cast in about three weeks. We did the initial test and then the make-up test. After numerous meetings, we finally came to the conclusion that it was not possible to do the work outdoors. So we decided to take the picture in a studio and to reconstruct the hill.

It was difficult to find a spacious studio suitable for our work but we finally found the studio.

We bought the stuff needed for the stage to be put among the bodies. Many efforts were made in the one month of pre-production. In the end, the stage got ready in two days and the work was photographed in one day.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:13

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Seyyed Ehsan Bagheri, Photography Director: “Honestly, it was difficult for the cast to be on that stage which was a hill of dead bodies. They were scared because the stage was gory and they had to play the role of the dead.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Assistant: “All of you – sorry to say – all the bodies lie down and close your eyes.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Seyyed Ehsan Bagheri, Photography Director: “In the end, the job was done with God’s help. We leave the result to the audience’s judgment.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Assistant: “I’m counting to ten; don’t move.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, don’t move.

Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Seyyed Ehsan Bagheri, Photography Director: “The Story of a Flag” tries to answer to this question that US pride and honor and lie on the operation of other nations.”


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