Mirza Ebrahim Khan Akkas Bashi

Court photographer to the Shah of Iran

The Shah of Iran, Mozaffar al-Din Shah, discovered the cinema when he visited the Paris Exposition in July 1900 and saw the giant Lumière film exhibit. He recorded in his journal: 'They erected a very large screen in the centre of the hall, turned off all electric lights and projected the picture of cinematograph on that large screen. It was very interesting to watch. Among the pictures were Africans and Arabians travelling with camels in the African desert which was very interesting ... We instructed Akkas Bashi to purchase all kinds of it and to bring to Teheran so that God willing he can make some there and show them to our servants'. Court photographer Akkas Bashi duly purchased the necessary equipment for the taking and projecting of film, and just one month later he was taking his first films, of the Festival of Flowers in Belgium, on the Shah's visit there. On the Shah's return to Teheran the films were shown to his inner circle of family, ministers and court servants. A second trip to Europe in 1902 was also filmed. All films were kept for royal entertainment only, and the court cinematograph was thereafter used by the Persian elite to record weddings, circumcisions and other festivities. French comedy films imported from Russia were also shown. The first public film theatre opened in Iran in 1905.

Luke McKernan