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Stunt in the Iranian cinema
Playing with Death
by Habib Hekmat

After extras, stunt is another profession which has remained largely unknown in the Iranian cinema (and the world). Apart from some advanced countries whose stuntmen are supported by well-defined organizations and laws, they have had no identity in Iran for many years and sometimes they were mistaken for extras. Stuntmen were introduced to the Iranian cinema for the first time in 1933 when an acrobat called Mir-Ahmad Safavi jumped off the roof of Pars Café into a truck in a scene from Hadji Aqa, the Cinema Actor. During the past 74 years, the story of stuntmen has not been a pleasant one and a guild association supporting them was established just a few years ago at the Iranian House of Cinema through efforts made by an Iranian stuntman who lived in Germany and followed the profession according to scientific standards.
Before that, no organization supported stunt and stuntmen in the Iranian cinema and the best evidence can be given by stuntmen themselves who have been following that career for years without availing of suitable advantages or facilities.
Akbar Esfahani is one of them. He has been working as still photographer for many years, but he was a professional stuntman before that. Esfahani has been born in Isfahan in 1950 and calls stunt in the Iranian cinema as a sort of madness. His last feat as a stuntman dates back to 13 years ago when he jumped down a tunnel from a height of 16 m. He started as a stuntman when he was still 18.
At that time he was practicing martial arts (judo and karate). In 1969 a production crew arrived in Isfahan. In one of the scenes, two main characters were supposed to fight on the top of a minaret which was 20 m high. The actors, including Reza Beik Imanverdi (an action and comedy star of those years) did not dare to go on the top of the minaret. Therefore, Akbar Esfahani, who loved cinema, volunteered to do that and excelled the director’s expectations. For example, he even hanged himself from the minaret. Seeing the applause of production crew, he was so motivated that when he was drafted for military service a year later, he frequently took leave of absence to work as stuntman in various films. He says, “At that time I was in love and did not think wisely. I just wanted to jump higher and higher. I even didn’t know cinema correctly and did not know whether I was shown on camera or not. Sometimes the director shouted at me saying, ‘Why you don’t understand? I say you must jump from a lower place.’ But I wanted to jump from high places. In a film when our car was driving at 30 km/h, director told me to jump. But I waited until the car sped to 70 km/h. When I jumped; I rolled on the ground like a marble!”
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