The Naked King

About the Film

Synopsis

1979, Revolution in Iran. 1980, Revolution in Poland. The fall of the Shah, the "King of Kings" in Iran, mass strikes and the "Solidarnosc" movement in Poland. What happened in the minds of the young women and men who were involved in the revolutions at the time? What happened to them when the revolution was suppressed or - as in Iran - when a religious-authoritarian elite took power?  

The director Andreas Hoessli lived in Poland as a research fellow. There he met the reporter Ryszard Kapuscinski, who reported on the revolution in Iran. Kapuscinski's notes are the starting point of the film narrative, in which the director also takes up the files of the Polish secret service about himself where he discovers that he is to be recruited as a informer under the name "Hassan" for the secret services of the Polish People's Republic.

Protagonists

Negar Tahsili (Born in 1980)

Negar Tahsili (Born in 1980)

Negar Tahsili was born right after the revolution, and grew up in its “founding years”. She says she was deeply influenced by the revolution, despite first becoming aware of it as an adult. She says that being an inventor is her most important profession. She studied industrial design and patented a number of things, including an invention for disinfecting surgical instruments. She later began making documentary art films. Wee-men or Women, which is centred on a taxi driver in Tehran, and Private P.art, which deals with gender and sexuality in the work of female artists. For her latest work, she is researching images that date back to the time of the revolution in Iran.

"I think that people who were over 20 years old at the time decided for themselves: I am going to walk out the door and go to that demonstration and nobody is going to stop me. These people who took part in the protests weren’t children anymore, and they probably have different feelings than I do when they watch that footage. Feelings that I unfortunately cannot have, namely that they’re searching for themselves in those images. But I don’t know how and why, even though I wasn’t born yet and my parents maybe weren’t there and so on… Where were my parents on that day, anyway? I don’t know why I search for myself in those images. There’s something very strange about those images, where you see a huge crowd of people, yet you can still look for yourself among them. It’s a very intimate feeling… and it’s maybe the first time I’ve ever spoken about it… I feel like my mouth tastes like blood."

Masoumeh Ebtekar (Born in 1960)

Masoumeh Ebtekar (Born in 1960)

In 2017 Masoumeh Ebtekar was appointed a vice president of Iran, responsible for the affairs of women and families (one of 12 vice presidents). She is well-known as a reform politician and because of her personal history: she was spokeswoman for the student group that occupied the US embassy in Tehran and took embassy staff hostage in November of 1979. As a child, she lived with her parents in Philadelphia in the US for six years and speaks fluent English. Masouhmeh Ebtekar studied biochemistry and taught as a professor of immunology. She was a vice president from 1997 to 2005 during the presidency of Mohammed Chatami.

"Can we still be revolutionary and criticize what has happened during these times? Can we engage in a self-critical approach and still be faithful to the values of the revolution? As a faithful revolutionary, could I stand and criticize what I thought, what I said or did, now that 30 years have passed, and still be faithful to the basic ideals of the revolution? These are issues which I think should come up in every society, to be able to reflect back on what has happened and the path that they have gone through."

Parviz Rafie

Parviz Rafie

Parviz Rafie used to be a journalist. During the revolution he met Kapuscinski, who had travelled to Tehran as a correspondent for a Polish press agency. He later read a Persian translation of Kapuscinski’s book “Shah of Shahs”, which was published in the early 2000s. He admired Kapuscinski and his keen observations of the events taking place in Iran at the time.

"I’ve always been afraid that I would be presented as someone who I am not. That I would be forced to represent something that I am not. I have always had this fear and it persists to this day. We will never know what happens inside prison cells, what prisoners go through all over the world. Nowhere. We have no way of knowing. What we hear is coloured by human emotion, and sometimes we exaggerate. The truth remains unknown. I know a prisoner who, after he was executed… His family later told me why he was executed. He had said, “I don’t want to be released because people will think that I collaborated with prison authorities.” It is better if I am executed. I know this person."

Tadeusz Chętko (Born in 1947)

Tadeusz Chętko (Born in 1947)

Tadeusz Chętko graduated from the Theatre Academy in Warsaw. After graduating, he was recruited by the secret service of the Polish People’s Republic and trained at a facility in Stare Kiejkuty. He carried out various secret service residencies abroad in places such as Prague, Zagreb and Bratislava. He also worked as a liaison officer in the Middle East and later in former Yugoslavia during the war. He was examined by a commission in 1990 and transferred to the secret service of the new “Third Republic”.

"- I’ll ask you: Did you know that you were being watched, or did you suspect that you were?

- I suspected that I was.

- There is an example of your self-control. For example, you stopped at a shop window, checked the reflection and turned your head, almost imperceptibly, in the direction from which you came. You did this to see if you were being followed or watched. Then you kept walking, stopped at a traffic light and looked in the direction from which you’d approached the light. That’s when you noticed that the same person you saw near the shop window was now standing by the traffic light. So, you were certain you were being watched. What you demonstrated with this behaviour is self-control."

Mohsen Rafiqdoost (Born in 1940)

Mohsen Rafiqdoost (Born in 1940)

Mohsen Rafiqdoost is the man who chauffeured the Ayatollah Khomeini, after his return from exile on 1 February 1979, from the airport to the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, where the Ayatollah gave his first speech and announced that he did not recognize the government of Prime Minister Bakhtiar appointed by the shah, and that he would overthrow it. The speech was the prelude to the seizure of power and the establishment of the Islamic republic. Rafiqdoost became commander and later minister of the Revolutionary Guard. As head of the Mostazafan Foundation, which controls a substantial chunk of the Iranian economy, he would become one of the most powerful men in the Iranian regime.

"In every country the enemy possesses powers called the “fifth column”. I’d like to share with you one example of this from our country. At the beginning of the revolution, the imam has our entire nation board a train, and the destination of this train is happiness. Many people get off the train along the way. They do this for various reasons, including religious constraints. We do not deny that at all. They cannot adapt to the revolution. The train speeds down the track, faster and faster. They run until they reach the end of the train. There they are forced to disembark."

Zbigniew Siemiątkowski (Born in 1957)

Zbigniew Siemiątkowski (Born in 1957)

Zbigniew Siemiątkowski studied political science and was a member of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR). After 1990 he was a member of parliament and Assistant Secretary of State. In 1992 he became head of the successor organization of the secret service, the State Protection Office, and then a minister and chief of the secret service. In 2012, Siemiątkowski was investigated in connection with secret CIA detention facilities in Poland, but prosecutors evidently dropped the charges. The CIA detention facilities were located in the former Polish secret service training facility in Stare Kiejkuty. Siemiątkowski currently teaches and conducts research at various universities on the topic of state organization and security services.

"You find yourself in a compromising situation. You become nervous. You are under enormous stress. Someone stretches out a hand to you and says: We can find a solution. You have a choice: come to an agreement or end up with serious problems. A psychological situation is created, in which one side has power over the other. When recruiting, you first have to shock the person and when he has got used to that you have to increase the tension even more. Only then is he offered a helping hand. The subject will now grasp the offered hand and will be grateful for the helping hand. Were he not in a state of shock, he would refuse to cooperate. But when pressure is applied it's different."

Amir Hassan Cheheltan (Born in 1956)

Amir Hassan Cheheltan (Born in 1956)

Amir Hassan Cheheltan, trained electrical engineer and writer. In the last 20 years, none of his books could be published in Iran. For his latest book, “The Steadfast Parrot” (“Der standhafte Papagei” German 2018), Cheheltan researched the first year of the revolution. About how, in just a short time, the Islamic leaders around the Ayatollah Khomeini pushed the other groups involved in the revolution – from the left all the way to secular nationalists – out of power. In 1999, after an attempt on his life and following the assassination of a number of authors, Cheheltan went to Italy for two years. He returned to Tehran in 2001 where he has lived ever since.

"I would like to tell you a story of mine. When I was 12 or 13 years old, my father told me that if I heard anyone in the bus, the supermarket or other public places criticizing the shah, I should keep my mouth shut. I asked him: Why? He said it might be a secret service agent trying to root out opponents of the shah, and if I joined in on the criticism, he would arrest me and take me away. That is when I became scared of the secret service. And that was a fear shared by all of society."

Józef Pinior (Born in 1955)

Józef Pinior (Born in 1955)

Józef Pinior studied law and social sciences in Wroclaw. During and after the strikes in the summer of 1980, he was involved in developing the structure of the new trade union Solidarność in Lower Silesia. In December 1981, he became known throughout the country when he withdrew the entire assets of Solidarność (80 million zloty) from the state bank and hid it, just a few days before the state of war was proclaimed. Pinior managed to avoid arrest and went underground as the leader of Solidarność. He was arrested in April of 1983 and sentenced to four years in prison. Later he would work as a researcher at the New School University in New York and in Brazil, studying the transformation of authoritarian systems. Pinior’s arrest in 2016 for alleged corruption triggered a wave of protests. It is feared that the justice system controlled by the PiS Party will carry out a “show trial” with fabricated “evidence” against him.

"Hannah Arendt speaks of the “lost treasure of the revolution”, when she analyses René Char’s poems in her book about the revolution. René Char is a French poet who wrote about the Résistance, the resistance movement in France. He describes something that we have lost. Hannah Arendt calls it “the lost treasure of the revolution”. But what is the essence of this treasure? In the instant of revolution, we overcome these existential fears, we step outside the framework of our existence. We live in a state of euphoria where anything is possible, leading to renewed hope that the world can be a better place. The strike in Poland in the summer of 1980 embodied that state. I for one was certainly living in a state like that. The idea changed me forever: that there is a different way to live."

Stefan Piwowar

Stefan Piwowar

Little is known of Stefan Piwowar’s biography. He studied history at the University of Warsaw before being recruited for the secret service of the Polish People’s Republic. Disguised as a diplomatic employee, he carried out various secret service residencies abroad in places such as Bern, Switzerland, where his official job was embassy press attaché. He was in contact with journalists and correspondents who submitted their travel plans and press visa applications to him. After 1990 he was transferred to the secret service of the “Third Republic”.

"I contacted you as an employee at our embassy, and you came to me as an embassy employee.

- That’s true, but I received my secret service files, and it’s clear that you worked for the secret service.

- Mister Editor, can you please ask me the next question?"

Jacek Petrycki (Born in 1948)

Jacek Petrycki (Born in 1948)

Jacek Petrycki studied in the camera department of the National Film School in Łódź. He worked as a cameraman at “WFD” documentary film studio in Warsaw and shot numerous films with the director Krzysztof Kieślowski including Robotnicy 71 (Workers 1971), Amator (Camera Buff) and Gadające głowy (Talking Heads). He later worked as a cameraman on films with directors such as Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Zanussi and Marcel Łoziński. Jacek Petrycki was the cameraman who shot the outdoor scenes in August at Gdansk shipyard for the film Robotnicy 80 (Workers 80).

"They spoke about certain high-level things, which up till then, had only been discussed behind closed doors, with friends or family in hushed voices. And suddenly they were being spoken directly into the camera, into the microphone. They spoke of things like freedom, democracy, like real… These workers spoke about censorship, which was extraordinary. I’d always thought censorship was a subject for intellectuals who were struggling with censorship. Suddenly the workers were saying: We don’t want any censorship, because we want to know what’s really going on in our country."

Kamal Tabrizi (Born in 1959)

Kamal Tabrizi (Born in 1959)

Kamal Tabrizi shot the footage of the students who climbed over the fence into the US embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and took embassy staff hostage. He was friends with many of the students who took part and sympathized with the operation, which demanded the extradition of the shah (who was in the US). Kamal Tabrizi studied at Tehran University of Art. He would become a well-known film director of critical comedies about Islamic society including Leily is with Me and The Lizard. The scenes of the embassy occupation in my film come from his footage.

"They (the students who occupied the US embassy) didn’t think they’d even be able to enter the embassy building and that the people inside the embassy would put up a fight and kill some of them. Then they would retreat and the dead would be martyrs who had been made martyrs by the people of the embassy… What I’m trying to say is that they thought the whole thing would only last seven, eight or ten hours, from the moment they infiltrated embassy grounds to the end of the operation. The students never dreamed they’d be able to break into the embassy building, stay there for an extended period and take the embassy staff hostage. They found themselves in a situation they hadn’t bargained for. That’s why I’m telling you: The footage I shot… It was plain to see… I was shooting the whole time and concentrating on the details and I could tell they didn’t know how to handle guns. They’d found the guns there. They hadn’t been taught how to use them."

Director

Director

Andreas Hoessli studied social and economic history in Zurich and Paris. Research fellowship in Warsaw. Doctorate at the University of Zurich. Correspondent for Central and Eastern Europe for various Swiss and German newspapers and magazines. From 1985 foreign editor at Swiss Television. Since 1993 Andreas Hoessli has been working as a freelance film author, producing documentaries for cinema and television. For several years he has been leading workshops and seminars on the subject of memory forms in documentary films (Beirut, Lusaka) on behalf of foundations. He is a member of the Swiss Film Academy.

Filmografie:

Awards

Best Film of the Festival VIKTOR Main Competition DOK.international
Dok.fest München

Technical Details

Resolution
HD
Format
DCP
Duration
108min
Aspect Ratio
Color
Yes
Year
2019
Original Language
Polish, Farsi, English, German
Subtitles
German, English, Polish, French
Country
Switzerland, Poland, Germany
ISAN
0000-0005-07E0-0000-X-0000-0000-C

Credits

With

Tadeusz Chętko

Zbigniew Siemiątkowski

Parviz Rafie

Amir Hassan Cheheltan

Negar Tahsili

Mohsen Rafiqdoost

Jacek Petrycki

Kamal Tabrizi

Masoumeh Ebtekar

Józef Pinior

Stefan Piwowar

Skript & Director

Andreas Hoessli

Montage

Lena Rem

Camera

Peter Zwierko

Sound

Hassan Shabankareh

Marcin Lenarczyk

Marcin Popławski

Zofia Moruś

Producer

Peter Zwierko

Associate Producers

Vadim Jendreyko

Hercli Bundi

Co-producers

Paweł Kosuń

Agnieszka Janowska

Jacek Nagłowski

Anna Martensen

Narrator German

Bruno Ganz

Narrator English

Sam Riley

Narrator French

Edmond Vullioud

Narrator Polish

Jerzy Radziwilowicz

Sound studio

Bewegte Bilder

Re-recording

Dominik Avenwedde

Graphic design/online/DCP

REDSPACE A.G.

Color Correction

Hannes Rüttimann

Production

Mira Film

Co-production

Centrala

TM Film

In co-production with

Telewizja Polska S.A.

Marta Dużbabel

In co-production with

ARTE G.E.I.E.

Sabine Lange

With financial support from

Bundesamt für Kultur (BAK)

Zürcher Filmstiftung

Polish Film Institute

MFG Filmförderung Baden-Württemberg

Kulturfonds Suissimage

Ernst Göhner Stiftung

UBS Kulturstiftung

Robert Bosch Stiftung / Literarisches Colloquium Berlin

Succès Passage Antenne

éducation21 / Filme für eine Welt

Participant of  Eurodoc