- Grass (1925 film)
name = Grass
image-size = 220px
imdb_id = 0015873
Merian C. Cooper Ernest B. Schoedsack Marguerite Harrison Haidar Khan
Merian C. Cooper Ernest B. Schoedsack
Merian C. Cooper Ernest B. Schoedsack
March 20, 1925
country = USA
runtime = 71 min
"Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life" is a 1925 silent
documentary filmwhich follows a branch of the Bakhtiaritribe of Persia(today Iran) as they and their herds make their seasonal journey to better pastures. It is considered one of the earliest ethnographic documentary films. It was written by Richard Carverand Terry Ramsaye.
The film is
Merian C. Cooper, Ernest Schoedsack, and Marguerite Harrison's documentation of their journey from Angora(modern-day Ankara, Turkey) to the Bakhtiari lands of western Iran, in what is now the western part of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Provinceand the eastern part of Khuzestan. They then follow Haidar Khan as he leads 50,000 of his people and countless animals on a harrowing trek across the Karun Riverand over Zard Kuh, the highest peak in the Zagros Mountains. In filming the journey, Cooper, Schoedsack, and Harrison became the first Westerners to make the migration with the Bakhtiari.
The film highlights the extreme hardships faced by
nomadic peoples, as well as the bravery and ingenuity of the Bakhtiari. At the same time, the film is also a reflection of the context out of which it emerged, that of Hollywoodin the 1920s. Having heard about the success of the first (commonly assumed) ethnographic documentary " Nanook of the North", Cooper and Schoedsack set out for their own real life adventure. Like "Nanook", the central concern of "Grass" is to present primordial human struggle with harsh environments. The filmmakers attempt to document "timeless" and "ancient" human struggles, still observable in this part of the oriental world. The film has an engaging but deeply Orientalisttone in presenting the Bakhtiari as unchanging and archaic.
The documentary presents the filmmakers' travel as a narrative of a return to an ancient past: they turn the pages of history backwards until they get to "the very first page". Therefore what they present to the audience in the documentary is not a culture in the present, but a culture of the past. Mention is made of a sort of geneaological quest for so-called Aryan origins of 3000 years ago, calling the Bakhtiari, "the Forgotten People". The film highlights migratory Anatolian and Iranian peoples as continuously in a struggle for survival: the hunter on the Taurus mountains "does not hunt for sport, he kills for food". The film presents the annual Bakhtiari migration to Iranian highlands, where several environmental difficulties stand in the way of the tribe, which over time has developed ingenious solutions to overcome them (barefoot trail cutting over snow-covered
Zard Kuh, goat-skin floats at the river crossing, etc.).
In 1997, "Grass" was selected for preservation in the United States
National Film Registryby the Library of Congressas being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
*The American ambassador in
Tehranwho helped the film crew with their mission was killed in Tehran a few weeks after filming was completed.
* The success of "Grass" and the documentary "Chang" (1927) propelled Merian Cooper to the top in Hollywood. "King Kong" (1933) soon followed.
Marguerite Harrisonwas a spy, a member of American military intelligence, and was twice arrested by CHEKA/KGB.
* Merian Cooper was also allegedly a spy, one who spent two years in Lubyanka.
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