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Subtitle: Misadventures On Iran’s Longest River
Presenters: Tom Allen & Leon McCarron
Director: Rhys Thwaites-Jones
Producers: Tom Allen & Leon McCarron
Genre: Factual, documentary, travel, adventure
Release date: 2015-11-16 (VOD, digital download)
Format: 1 x 56′ (feature) / 1 x 15′ (short)
Source format: Canon XF
Premiere status: World Premiere at the Royal Geographical Society on 2015-11-14.
Karun: Official Trailer
Press Release, 5th November 2015: New Adventure Film KARUN released 16th November Worldwide Aims to Change the Way We Think about Iran (MS Word DOCX, click to download)
Synopsis (short, 41 words)
Two British adventurers set out to follow Iran’s longest river, aiming to go beyond the politics and showcase the culture and geography of this misunderstood nation. But they soon begin to wonder if they’ve bitten off more than they can chew…
Synopsis (medium, 88 words)
British adventurers Tom Allen and Leon McCarron set out to follow Iran’s longest river, the Karun, by human powered means. Their aim is to go beyond the politics and explore the culture and geography of this most misunderstood of nations – and have a great adventure doing so. But despite Tom’s previous experience of travel in Iran, they find that cultural differences run deeper than they’d realised. And when the once-calm waters of the Karun turn nasty, they wonder if they’ve bitten off more than they can chew…
- Click here to download a ZIP file containing 9 high-resolution stills from the production.
- More high-resolution images are available from this Flickr set.
Cast & Crew
Tom Allen (subject & camera)
Tom Allen has been active in the world of adventure since the age of 23 when he set off on a bicycle to travel the world, a journey which would last nearly four years. His award-winning film of this journey, Janapar, was released in 2012, followed by a book of the same name. As an independent adventure filmmaker and writer he’s since worked in the Scandinavia Arctic, the USA, Outer Mongolia, Iran and most recently Patagonia.
Leon McCarron (subject & camera)
Leon McCarron is a Northern Irish adventurer and cameraman. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and specialises in long distance, human-powered expeditions, including a 6-month, 3000 mile expedition walking the length of China, from the Gobi desert in Mongolia to South China Sea in Hong Kong. Other journeys include 14,000 miles solo and unsupported on a bicycle from New York to Hong Kong and a folding bike trip around the British Isles to climb the Six Peaks.
Rhys Thwaites-Jones (director)
“Any adventure set in Iran was bound to be intriguing, It is clearly difficult to film in Iran, and I love a post-production challenge. Having seen Tom and Leon’s work thus far I was excited to be given the task of making a positive and entertaining film out of their footage. Their relationship, route and modes of transport evolved naturally and felt refreshingly uncontrived. The outcome is a celebration of their DIY travel ethic, and a sensitive and gently drawn portrait of a fascinating and much misunderstood country.”
Notes For Editors
The story of the film incorporates many geographical and cultural features of Iran. This section is intended as a starting point for facts and information on the region.
The Karun River
The Karun River is the largest and only navigable waterway in Iran. It rises in the Bakhitari district of the Zagros mountain range and flows southwest for over 500 miles before joining the Shatt al-Arab and emptying into the Persian Gulf.
The river meanders through canyons and mountain ridges, absorbing tributaries such as the Dez and Kuhrang until it reaches the city of Ahvaz, capital of the Khuzestan Province. There are many dams along the Karun’s course that serve to provide flood control and generate hydroelectric power.
Archeologists have identified the Karun, along with the Tigris, Euphrates and Wadi al-Batin as one of the four rivers that flowed into the Garden of Eden. The famous silent film documentary, Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life (1925), tells the story of the Bakhtiari tribe crossing this river with 50,000 people and 500,000 animals.
The Zagros Mountains
Formed by collision of the Eurasian and Arabian tectonic plates, the Zagros Mountains are the largest mountain range in Iran. The formation, with its spectacular ridges and valleys, stretches from the borders of Turkey and Russia, spanning the length of the western and southwestern Iranian plateau to the Persian Gulf.
The mountains host a variety of ecosystems, from snow-capped summits to expansive forest steppe. The highest peak is Zardeh Kuh, at over 14, 000 feet. In addition, the region has a rich tribal history, having been home to an eclectic number of peoples over the centuries – from the Assyrians and Elamites and the conquering tribes of early Mespotamia, to the indigenous Bakhtiari tribe who still inhabit the Zagros today.
The Bakhtiari are an ancient southwestern Persian tribe inhabiting areas of the Zagros Mountains that span the modern provinces of Lorestan, Khuzestan, Chahar Mahaal, Bakhitari and Isfahan. Said to be decedent from Fereydun (a legendary hero of the Persian epic Shah-Nameh) the Bakhitari are the largest of all the Iranian nomadic tribes.
The Bakhitari speak a dialect of Persian called Lori and are Shiite Muslims. They have been integral to the modern Iranian political landscape having played a hugely significant part in the constitutional revolution (1905 -1907). Now, only about a third of the tribe is nomadic, still migrating seasonally with their sheep from the highlands west of Esfahan to the flat plains of Khuzistan.
Situated on the banks of the river Karun, Ahvaz is the capital of the Khuzestan Province. Build during Sassanid dynasty under what is believed to be the ancient Persian city of Taryana, Throughout the Medieval period, the city become known for its Sugarcane cultivation which enabled it flourish economically. Ahvaz is populated by over 1,100,000 people of varying Iranian ethnicities. The city is home to The White Bridge which was the first bridge crossing on the Karun designed and built by Swedish engineers in 1936.
Consistently one of the hottest cities in the world, Ahvaz was ranked as the world’s most air-polluted city by the World Health Organisation. The city suffered greatly during the Iran-Iraq war due to its location close to the Iraqi boarder.
Shustar is an ancient fortress city. During the Sassanian era, it was an island city on the Karun river and selected to become the summer capital. The people of Shushtar, called Shushtaris, maintain a unique cultural heritage stretching back centuries including a Persian dialect distinct to their group.
The city is famous for its historical hydraulic system which can be traced back to Darius the Great in the 5th century. Considered by archeologists to be a genius feat of engineering, the hydraulic system was based on the creation of two main diversion canals which harvested water from the river Karun (the Gargar canal still provides water to the city today). In 2009 the site was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Located in the central west of Iran, Abadan lies on an island on the eat bank of the Shatt al-Arab river, an outlet of the Karun. Founded in the 8th century, Abadan initially prosperred due to its production of woven textiles. It later became central to the Iranian domestic oil industry following establishment of a pipeline from its refinery to Tehran. The Possession of the city was long disputed between the Persians and the Ottomans until Persia formally acquitted it in 1847.
The city has seen its fair share of turbulent times. In 1951 the Iranian government nationalised all Iranian oil properties, which resulted in heavy rioting and a British blockade of the port. Similarly, due to its strategic location, the city was devastated by the Iran-Iraq War. In September 1980 980 Iraqi President Saddam Hussein launched a surprise attack against Iran and attacked Abadan. The city was under siege for a year before the Iranian forces managed to break the Iraqi offensive. The War reduced the city to virtual ghost town with the population dropping from over 300,000 to just 6.
The Iran-Iraq War, also known as the First Persian Gulf War began in September 1980 and lasted for eight years (making it the 20th centuries longest conventional war). The then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein cited a territorial dispute over the Shatt al-Arab as the basis for attack but in reality it was spurned from Hussein’s fear that by the Iranian Islamic revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power the year before would stir up Iraq’s Shia majority.
Fighting ended on 20th September 1988 with both sides agreeing a resolution to ceasefire under pressure from the UN. The conflict cost approximately 1 million lives and economic damage with Iran generally considered to have suffered the more substantial loss. The Iran-Iraq war is significant for the use of chemical weapons, particularly the us of mustard gas by the Iraqi government against the native kurds.
In the aftermath of war Iran suffered even more from international isolation. The revolution had resulted in severe tension with the US, particularly following the siege of the American embassy in Tehran. In addition, the international community was suspicious of Iran’s still relatively new Islamic theocracy, something which also sought to alienate further from Arab countries in the Middle East.