When Jahangir Golestan-Parast was 17-years-old he left his family, his friends, and childhood memories of his fathers Zurkhaneh. Like most teenagers, the naive Jahangir was looking ahead and eager to shake the dust of ancient Persia and embrace the West. He immigrated from Esfahan to London and started identifying as “John” (to fit in and, he’d hoped, avoid prejudice). Following his life long plan, John leap frogged to Los Angeles where he studied filmmaking at UCLA to follow in the tradition of the Hollywood idols that inspired his odyssey. It seemed he’d won his dream, but it didn’t fulfill the way he imagined. After 18 years away from Iran, John found his attention more focused on what he had lost: his Persian roots.
In 2016, the United World Wrestling brought an international world cup tournament to Los Angeles. Curious, Jahangir went looking to reconnected with his past and was immediately filled with a sense of pride and longed for a better understanding of his heritage. Recounting Iran’s history through the success of Iran’s national wrestling team, Jahangir started a personal cinematic crusade to reconnect with his home at a time when the United States stepped up its long- running suspicion of anything Middle Eastern. Jahangir’s personal interest to simply celebrate his native culture turned into a social effort to help audiences find understanding about Iran, dispel stereotype, and see the cultural beauty he almost forgot.
Forget what you know about Iran in the media and learn about its past and people through the eyes of the Pahalvan. Did you know Persian politeness is seen as an art form? Do you know Iranian-Americans held the vigil after 9/11? Have you ever heard of Gholamreza Takhti?
In his father’s zurkhaneh, a strength house where pahavani wrestlers exercise, Jahangir recalls how the wrestlers would greet him by bowing reverently. That simple act of respect made a spiritual imprint that still influences him, and motivates this production. John & The Pahlavan follows Jahangir, now aged 66, as he plans a return to Esfahan to re-unite with family, explore the path of the pahlavan wrestler, and find truth in a home he has almost forgotten. Through film, Jahangir discovered a chance to thank his parents for the love he was just now realizing they had given him all those years ago. Jahangir explores the nature of pahlavan and asks: What can we learn from the pahlavan and how might we apply it to the conflict in our daily life?
Our story follows a 3-year journey in which Jahangir studies wrestlers in the U.S. and in Iran sharing with audiences inspiring pahlavan-like stories of the legendary Gholmareza Takhti and testimonies from American wrestlers like World Champions Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Syndser. Our goal is to create a documentary that influences a new way Western audiences see the sport of wrestling, understand Persian culture, and share in one man’s heartfelt journey to reconnect with his heritage.