Six years ago in Venice, an Italian young man was required to learn two Middle-Eastern languages as a part of his academic studies. Giacomo Longhi started with the most-introduced language of this region – Arabic. Later on, it was only by chance that he became acquainted with the Persian language. Nevertheless, he passionately follows the literature and culture of Iran regardless of the strong propaganda shadowing this country. He is now a graduate in Persian language and literature. Giacomo regularly travels to Iran and meets many Iranians both in Italy and in Iran. He has gone as far as translating books from Persian into Italian. He likes to read Arabic and Persian poetry and is trying to translate some of them. Giacomo is deeply touched by the Islamic architecture in the holy shrines he visits. In this film, you will see Iran through Giacomo’s point of view. He speaks Persian so fluently that he immediately attracts the attention of Iranian residents of Italy. He even becomes friends with one of them and shares his interests in the Iranian culture beyond the thick shadows of propaganda. Giacomo Longhi plays an active role in removing this shadow and presenting the true Iran to the Italian people.
TIME CODE: 00:00_01:20
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Voice of Giacomo: “Write down: I am an Arab. I have a name without a title A patient in a countryWhere people are enraged. My rootsWere put in the ground before the birth of timeAnd before the opening of the eras, Before the pines, and the olive trees, And before the grass grew.
Write down: I am an Arab, Employed with fellow workers at a quarry. I have eight children. I get them bread, Garments, and booksfrom the rocks. I do not supplicate charity at your door Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber.
Write down on top of the first page: I do not hate people Nor do I encroach, But if I become hungry
The usurper's flesh will be my food. Beware! BewareOf my hunger And my anger!”
TIME CODE: 01:41_06:00
Conversation [Italian & Persian] Giacomo & two Italians in Library:
“May I come in?
-How are you?
No, it’s evening already! Good evening!
The books haven’t arrived yet.-
Really?! When are you going to receive them?
I think before the weekend.
I have to go but I need to say that you look really nice today.
Oh, quite the contrary!
Let me show you the latest publications.
How many have you got?
I need to go home and check out my own library.
What else? What else? What else?
I’ve read this one. It’s rather cryptic. It’s about a man who had cancer …
This gentleman is Iranian.
Yes, I’m Italian, 100 percent!
But you speak Farsi!
Yes, I do!
In this shop, you can find some of my translations.
I really enjoy translating books.
And also writing books.
How long have you been studying Farsi?
I think, for 6 years by now.”
When I started to study, I had to choose a language to learn. I decided to learn Arabic, but I didn’t know anything about Farsi back then. After that, we had to learn another language spoken in the Middle East and that was the time when I started to know more about Farsi.
I’m glad to hear that.
I used to live in Sicily 28 years ago.
Which city in Sicily?
Then Puglia and after that, I moved to Sorrento. I also lived in Rome for a few years.
I was almost 15 years in Trieste. The next city was Milan and then I went to Vergemoli and also spent a few years in Vicenza.
So you’ve been almost everywhere.
Which one did you enjoy most?
Vicenza, where I spent one year.
What is your job?
I sell carpets.
How wonderful! Actually we were looking for a carpet shop.
So is your shop here in Serrano?
No, it’s in Milan but I had a shop here for five years.
But all over Europe you can find some Iranians.
And if you have any problem in any pharmacy you enter, you’ll find an Iranian who can give you the medicine you need. At any hospital, can find an Iranian doctor who can help you.
Yes, especially Iranian doctors …
You just need to ask. For sure, you’ll find an Iranian doctor at any hospital you walk in … pharmacist, doctors ... I’m also a graduate of pharmacy school.
I love to go to Tajrish to eat in the evenings.
He says a lot of nice things about Tajrish!
I’ve been to many places … Sorrento, Holland but when I go to Iran and arrive in Tehran, the first thing I want to do is to go to Tajrish to eat.
There is a very lovely square in the Tajrish neighborhood. Tehran used to be quite different before.
There were some villages surrounding the city of Tehran and Tajrish used to be one of them, located in the mountain.”
TIME CODE: 06:00_07:38
SOUNDBITE [Italian] Giacomo (talking on phone):
“Yes, yes ,understood.
It was with a friend from Iran.
He is one of the friends from Arak.
Do you know him? He is here in Milan.
Then I decided to invite this guy.
So if you agree, we can get the whole group there.
OK, I agree.
Do as you wish.
OK, I agree.
SOUNDBITE [Persian] Giacomo (talking on phone):
“Hello Milad, how are you?
Hey Giacomo, how are you doing?
I’m doing great. What’s up?
Everything is fine, thank you.
Let’s visit my parents together for lunch.
Do you think you could come to Sorrento around 12:00 to 12:30?
You are my first Araki guest. Ali and others haven’t visited me yet.
Well, it’s an honor!
OK, we will meet each other tomorrow.
Sure, just send me the address.”
TIME CODE: 07:48_10:31
Conversation [Persian] Giacomo & Milad, his friend: “Driving through the highways always reminds me of Tehran.
Yesterday, when I was going out, I told a couple of my friends that I was invited by an Italian who can speak Farsi. They said, “You mean the one who looks like that actor, Parsa Pirouzfar?”
I answered, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” I showed them your photo and they said, “Yes, we know him.”
Apparently you guys had met each other on Chaharshanbe Suri, didn’t you?
Yes we did, on Chaharshanbe Suri.
They said they didn’t even realize at first that he was Italian. After a while, someone said that he spoke Farsi like an Iranian but he was Italian! This is how my friends know you.
When I was in Iran, I heard that Italy is the Iran of Europe.
Really? You thought it was like this?
My friends told me so; the ones who had been to Italy before.
Both countries have a very ancient history.
Their past has made its way inside people’s behavior and personality.”
Conversation [Persian] Giacomo & Milad, his friend: “Hello! Good day!
This is Milad.
Do you like this pizza? I guess it’s different from the ones you can get in Iran.
This one is fine, but the ones which are thinner, we call them bread and cheese.
The ones that we have in Iran are full of different ingredients.
But I really like it.”
Conversation [Italian] Giacomo’s friend & his families: “Hello!
Here you are!
Yes, here we have a marvelous view.
My name is Milad.
Nice to meet you.
We met in Iran. He was a friend of my best friends.
In the city that …
Please, take a seat!
I don’t know if you have this dish in Iran?
You mean lasagne? Yes, we do, with some differences of course.
How do you say delicious in Italian?
Yes, everyone says that in Italian we say delizioso but it’s a rather old word.
It’s very good.
Yes, you could simply say “bouno” when you want to say something is delicious.”
TIME CODE: 11:00_13:56
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Voice of Giacomo: “I am Joseph, o father? O father, my brothers neither love me nor want me among them. They assault me and throw stones and words at me. They want me to die so they can eulogize me. They closed the door of your home and left me outside. They expelled me from the field. They poisoned my vineyards. They destroyed my toys, o father. When the gentle breeze passed by and played with my hair they became jealous and flamed up with rage against me and flamed up in rage against you. What did I ever do to them, o father?”
SOUNDBITE [Persian] Giacomo (singing): “O Iran, o the bejeweled land
O, your soil is the wellspring of arts
Far from you may the thoughts of evil be
May you remain lasting and eternal.”
TIME CODE: 13:56_17:54
Conversation [Persian] Giacomo & Italian band Music: “We’re the second band performing here today.
From which region was the first one?
They were Zagros inhabitants.
We are Alborz inhabitants and after us, a band from Bushehr will come.
I see, Bushehr!
I study at the University of Venice but there are some exchange programs between the University of Ferdosi and my university.
We’ve been told here that Italians care about their food and their appearance more than anything else.
You mean the way they look?
And food? I think that’s true!
People from Gilan are also famous for being well-dressed, for having the best local cuisines and in addition, for their passion for travel!”
Conversation [Persian] Giacomo & Servant at Exhibition: “Hello ma’am, how can I order some food here?
You can take a seat and they’ll bring you the menu, sir.
Are you Iranian?
No, I’m Italian.
You speak Farsi very good.
Well, I study Farsi language and literature at university.
Glad to meet you, take a seat please!
Conversation [Persian] Giacomo & Servant: “We have gheymeh, ghormeh sabzi. celery stew, kabab koobideh and roastchicken.
How big is your kabab koobideh? I saw a portion over there which was small.
It’s served in two plates. Would you like more rice?
No, I’d like bigger kebabs!
So, more kebab?
Actually, I want to have some chicken and rice.
One chicken and rice.
Yes, that’s what I want.”
Conversation [Persian] Giacomo & Iranian man: “Hello!
How are you doing?
Pleased to meet you.
Where are you from?
When did you start?
To learn Farsi?
Almost 6 years ago.
I see, have also been to Iran?
Yes, quite a lot! I go to Iran almost every year.
Do you know anyone there?
Yes, I’ve got many friends there.
Especially in Tehran and Mashhad …
By the way, where are you from?
I’m from Tehran.
I live near Bazaar.
I see, do you work here?
I present my business in one of the partitions in this exhibition.
The commercial section in the Iranian part.
Which cities have visited in Iran?
Almost everywhere. Tehran, Bandar Abbas, Shiraz, Isfahan.
Have you visited the famous Qantas there?”
TIME CODE: 18:17_20:37
Conversation [Persian] Giacomo & Zoha:
“Hey Zoha! How are you?
Hello! You’re late!
It’s not a problem, come in please.
So… how can I help you with your thesis? You need me to correct the Italian text?
Yes, actually I translated some English texts I needed into Italian but I had no one to help me and correct them. So that’s why I asked for your favor.
Thanks a lot. There are only a few pages.
You helped me a lot before, so don’t worry about the corrections.
Don’t mention it. It was my pleasure.
You explained me all those Farsi idioms and expressions.
Has your book been published and distributed already in the bookshops in Milan and all over Italy?
Yes, but not in all the bookshops because the publication that is publishing my work is small,
but it could be found in that “Bistro.”
Most of the Iranian classic literature has already been translated into Italian. For example, Nezami, Hafez, Attar, Ferdosi … Ferdosi’s work was translated into Italian almost 100 -150 years ago.
A man called Italo has translated Shahnameh in verse.
Let’s have lunch together.
OK, sounds great.
Wow, Shirazi salad! I like it very much!
TIME CODE: 20:38_23:20
Conversation [Persian] Giacomo & Zoha:
“I got the inspiration for the collection that I designed I was inspired from traditional clothes. I had to study some traditional clothes.
From all over the world?
Yes. We could choose a costume from all over the world and I chose to work on the Middle East and I focused on Afghanistan.
We had to compile our results into a book.
It’s a beautiful book!
Thanks. In this book, the main subject is introduced with some pictures and so on. I mainly discussed about burqa, as you see, the main clothing of women in Afghanistan. Also one of my focal points was covering, which can be done for various reasons: the climate, the traditions and collective beliefs or protection as can be seen in some sports suits, armors, police uniforms or even space suits. These are some examples of the clothes that are meant to cover up the body.
This is only the practical part of my thesis. I almost finished this part but I need your help to write the theories I need to discuss. The part about main subject, covering, is important for me because an Iranian woman is identified with this covering [Hijab].
This is something that exists. I was interested in its history as well, the different styles of covering during history.
When I was doing some research for my thesis, reading some references in libraries in Iran like the National Library or the Library of Parliament, I realized that Hijab has always been a part of our culture, even before Islam came to Iran.
We could write in general that it’s something related to his personal expression.”
TIME CODE: 23:34_24:11
SOUNDBITE [Persian] Giacomo: “We lived in a house with the doors all closed. The door of the spring room was closed, the door of the third room was closed. The big door of the living room was closed and we had put a big American sofa in front of it. The door of the big bath was closed, so was the door of the basement. The door of the toilet in the yard was closed. The door of the back yard was closed. The doors of the spring hall, autumn hall and summer hall were closed. We had no fuel to keep those rooms warm.”
TIME CODE: 24:15 _27:32
SOUNDBITE [Persian] Giacomo (Talking on Skype): “Hello!
Hi! How are you?
I’m fine! How are you doing?
Pretty great! Thank you. How is everything Giacomo?
Everything goes well. How is your life?
Good, in general.
We went to a place where the ground was covered with snow. We played there! We had so much fun. We were thinking about you; wished you were there with us … Mehdi was also there. He said the same.
I also wish you were here with me! How far was it?
From my city, Arak, it took almost an hour and a half to get there.
An hour and a half! That’s great!
But the landscape was amazing. I will send you some photos later. We should go there together when you come here in summer.
Yes, I’ll be there in summer so we can go somewhere with fresh air. I’m already worried about hot weather.
Don’t worry! Anytime you come here, even in the middle of the summer, I’ll take you to play in the snow.
You can have all the four seasons at the same time in Iran.
Do you remember the time you insisted me to take you to that holy shrine?
It was very interesting to me. It was my first time visiting such a place. I had beautiful feelings there. Especially in the night when there was almost nobody.
I remember that you were looking around the place and were fascinated by the walls decorated by mirrors and tiles.
Of course, it was so interesting to me. Maybe it was normal for you, because you used to see that kind of ornamentations. But for me as a European, the Eastern art style is very different. The shrine we visited was very beautiful, indeed.
Hello Danial! How are you?
Thanks. How are you doing?
I’m doing great. How about you?
Good, what’s up?
What time is it now, over there?
What did you have for lunch?
Maryam had prepared some soup, rice and fish.
Well done, Maryam! Good job!
Do you have some old photos to send me?
I have a few photos that we took when travelling to the north of Iran together.
Perfect! Send them to me, please.
He wants to say goodbye to you.
Goodbye! I let you get back to your works!
So I found a few photos from our trip to Roodkhan Castle.
Perfect! Send them to me please.”
TIME CODE: 28:21_33:43
Conversation [Italian] Giacomo & Giuseppe Acconcia:
“I’m very glad to meet you because I’m working on my third book which is about Egypt.
I’m a writer and you are a translator.
You could say we work in parallel! By the way, you wrote a very nice book with excellent classification and precise details.
What actually connects us is our similar interest for Iran. I realized it when I met you for lunch and learned that you have a deep knowledge about Iran and the young generation of Iranian writers. You recommended me to read their works and when I read some texts translated by you, I totally liked it.
Oh, did you?
Of course I did, and I believe it was a perfect translation with no need for correction.
Oh, thank you.
If you keep giving me compliments, you’ll make me really embarrassed.
Well, I say what I think.
You said you like to read. What did make you to write?
At first, I used to write only for myself, about my daily experiences, events and activities.
I also used to write when I was studying at university.
I never thought I would get them published in newspapers or books.
During my long travels, I tried to take notice of all details and write about them because travelling gave me a good opportunity to write.
Who is your favorite Iranian writer?
Contemporary or classic?
Among the classic writers, Saadi Shirazi is my favorite writer. He is one the most famous writers as well. In his poems, he narrates some stories all over his book. Also it’s nice to read his melodic poems in Farsi.
Have you ever visited the tomb of Omar Khayyám?
Yes, it’s located in Nishabur, the tomb of Ferdosi is located in the same area, so is the tomb of Attar.
There are two other beautiful cities that I don’t know very much.
Also the city of Qazvin through which the railway crosses.
And another artistic city with many historical buildings. Its name is Kashan, have you been there?
No, not yet.
Kashan is fantastic. Full of nice buildings and gardens. I visited all the cities on the road from Tehran to Mashhad, with my friend Ricardo who lives in Iran; cities like Semnan, Shahrud and some other small towns which are not so touristic.
It was so nice of Riccardo to show me these small but beautiful places. A few special cities with a lot of beautiful places to see between Shahrud and Semnan.
There are several beautiful bazaars in Mashhad that are exceptional and different.
There is a very big one where traditional goods are sold.
Around the holy shrine, there is a very old neighborhood that tourists and pilgrims visit there. It’s very old.
I’d like to have a few words about Urmia, a beautiful city to where you can go by train and it’s nice to walk in the city.
It’s located on the road that connects Turkey to Tehran.
I also like Tabriz so much where the locals speak Azari. The city has a rich historical background and you’ll find many old beautiful buildings. Also one of the biggest bazaars in Iran is in Tabriz.
I also know that a lot of great architects and musicians live there. They play the tar and the setar.
The last time we met was in Milan, in a bank.
There used to be a bank.
Now there is a cultural center where some meetings and assemblies are held regularly.
I know the manager of that cultural center. You should meet him. He is so wise and influential. He has a lot of people around and is against the ones who talk bad about the Middle East.
People like him are really scarce. The others don’t know much about the Middle East and what they say is not based on reality. But that man is different. I like him.”
TIME CODE: 33:43_38:17
Conversation [Persian] Giacomo & Farrokh Zeynali: “I usually go to Como by train. How about you?
I always drive. I show you now the road I always take.
My mother lived in Como for 20 years. My grandparents had a shop there for selling meat and other foods.
I had some friends who studied other languages. One of them studied Chinese and the other Russian. But I wanted to choose a language that not everybody tries to learn in Italy. Actually, those who don’t know much about that region think that Arabic is spoken all over the Middle East. So this is how I decided to learn Farsi.
So you kind of discovered Farsi!
Most of the books about Iran deal with its political or social issues. Well, every country has its own problems.
This is right.
So we shouldn’t talk only about the problems of a country. When I read a book, I’d like to be able to get a full image of the locals’ life, no matter which country the book is about. There are a lot of other issues about which one can talk, for example the role of the mother in Iran, Japan or Latin America, or let say the life of the workers and so on …
When I came in Italy I was a young man. I hadn’t even grown any beard. I spent many years here in Italy and went back to Iran after a very long time. Coming back to my home for the first time after many years, I was shocked to see all that changes; the house where I had grown up in was replace with another one; the little children in our family had already grown up. It was nice to go there and review my childhood memories but on the other side, the time felt to have passed so quickly. When you step in the places you have left many years ago, you get this feeling that all those years have passed without you even realizing it. I was busy here, leaving a city for another one after some years. I always had new things ahead of me and that was the reason I didn’t notice those changes.
However, I think all those who immigrate should know that one day they’ll want to return to things that they would never think of.
Things that you never cared about will become so important, even precious one day.
I know a lot of people here in Europe, many friends from all over the world who shared this experience with me. I am not the only one who feels this way. I think when you get old, the only place you want to live in until the last day of your life is the birthplace.
Of course it also depends on many things; one might have got married or have children … the children might have grown up here but to tell the truth, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t cherish their motherland when they get old.
There is a beautiful saying that goes like: “Even if you leave your homeland, the homeland will never leave you.””
Giocomo Writing Down in Persian:
“O beautiful wine-bearer, bring forth the cup and put it to my lips,
Path of love seemed easy at first, what came was many hardships.
With its perfume, the morning breeze unlocks those beautiful locks,
The curl of those dark ringlets, many hearts to shreds strips.
In the house of my beloved, how can I enjoy the feast?
Since the church bells call the call that for pilgrimage equips.
With wine color your robe, one of the old Magi’s best tips,
Trust in this traveler’s tips, who knows of many paths and trips.
The dark midnight, fearful waves, and the tempestuous whirlpool,
How can he know of our state, while ports house his unladed ships?
I followed my own path of love, and now I am in bad repute,
How can a secret remain veiled, if from every tongue it drips?
If His presence you seek, Hafiz, then why yourself eclipse?
Stick to the One you know, let go of imaginary trips.”