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The Mission
Alternate Title: Ferestedah
Director: Parviz Sayyad (Dir)
Release Date:   24 Jun 1983
Premiere Information:   New Directors/New Films Festival screening: 30 Mar 1983; Los Angeles opening: 24 Jun 1983; New York opening: early Apr 1984
Duration (in mins):   107
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Cast:   Parviz Sayyad (The colonel)  
    Mary Apick (Maliheh)  
  Introducing Houshang Touzie (Daoud Moslemi) in
  with Mohammad B. Ghaffari (His Eminence)  
    Hedyeh Anvar (Farzaneh)  
    Hatam Anvar (Maziar)  
  and Kamran Nozad (Ghaffar)  
    Soraya Shayesteh (The woman)  
    Richard Mansfield (Mugger)  
    David Filinni (Mugger)  
    Liz Jones (Passer)  
    John Neil (Passer)  
    Frank Oddo (Taxi driver)  
    Murie Alcid (Cleaning lady)  
  The couple: Aaron Moss    
  [and] Susan Sands    
    Helen Mitsios (Fabric seller)  
    James Deenen (The policeman)  
    Dalton Alexander (Morgue attendant)  
    Saeed Rajai    

Summary: Iranian secret agent Daoud Moslemi arrives in New York City with a mission to assassinate the presumed enemy of his country’s new republic. At a cockroach-infested apartment, Daoud meets his contact, Ghaffar, who explains that Daoud must see “His Eminence” for specific orders. Alone in the apartment, Daoud prays to Allah, listens to a radio broadcast of Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, and watches television news to learn of a recent assassination. Mistaking the assignment for his own, Daoud wonders why he was replaced by another killer. Just then, Ghaffar telephones Daoud, promising to explain the discrepancy at a meeting the following day. There, Daoud is introduced to His Eminence, who reports the young man has been reallocated to a more dangerous target, a colonel from the deposed Shah’s secret police, SAVAK. Daoud hesitates, claiming he must verify the orders with “the Organization,” and His Eminence promises a telephone call from their leaders that evening. Upon receiving confirmation, Daoud follows his target to a subway station. Due to his fundamentalist beliefs, Daoud desires the honor of killing the colonel, himself, so he saves the man from a mugging. In the ensuing fight, Daoud drops his copy of the Koran, and the colonel notices it is written in Farsi. Realizing his rescuer is a fellow Iranian, the colonel is convinced the young man was sent by God and insists on repaying the favor with dinner the following evening. When Daoud arrives at the colonel’s home to kill him, he is taken aback by his target’s young, bicultural children, Farzaneh and Maziar, whose mother is held hostage in Iran. Daoud is invited to join the family at Coney Island the next day and prepares to murder the colonel on their journey, but is distracted by the man’s attractive sister-in-law, Maliheh, who invites the would-be assassin to dinner on Wednesday. After the Coney Island trip, the colonel leaves his children at their boarding school, explaining he is keeping the youths at a distance because he fears assassination, and he does not want them to witness his death. Unaware that Daoud intends to kill him, the colonel claims SAVAK became insidious only after he left the organization. Daoud asks him to identify clergy members who betrayed the current government, but the colonel refrains and promises that his recent book, an exposé of SAVAK, will reveal corruption on both sides of the revolution. As Daoud tracks the colonel Wednesday afternoon, he is shocked to see him drive to His Eminence’s home. Believing the colonel is a hypocrite, Daoud becomes intent on carrying out his mission. When he later confronts the colonel, the man explains His Eminence is holding his wife hostage to prevent the publication of his book. The text reveals that the leader betrayed his own government. At dinner with Maliheh, Daoud expresses disdain for all art forms, including the young woman’s accomplished piano playing, because it represents the sin of indulgence in an impoverished world. As the two continue their debate about the new Iranian republic, Daoud insists he must kill or be killed for his ideals, but Maliheh criticizes his fundamentalism, claiming murder is never heroic. Daoud storms away in anger as the colonel follows, appealing for mutual understanding. When Daoud aims his gun at the colonel, an elderly couple witnesses the exchange and the colonel insists Daoud is a friend. Daoud grudgingly accepts a ride home from the colonel. The next day, Ghaffar arrives at the apartment and Daoud expresses objection to his new assignment. He was convinced his initial target was a threat to thousands of Iranians, but he has yet to see proof of the colonel’s wrongdoings. Just then, Maliheh unexpectedly arrives outside to apologize for their confrontation and Daoud goes down to meet her. Although she knows Daoud held the colonel at gunpoint the previous evening, she is still ignorant of his true mission. She reflects that Daoud’s ability to refrain from violence in the heat of passion proves he is good at heart, and invites him to dinner that evening. Meanwhile, Ghaffar peers out the apartment window and sees the colonel, who drove his sister-in-law to Daoud’s home. Back inside, Daoud assuages Ghaffar’s suspicion by explaining his strategy to entice his target, thereby making it easier to pull off the killing. However, he refuses to go through with the mission unless he is convinced of the colonel’s guilt. Ghaffar warns Daoud that His Eminence will retaliate if the mission fails. That night, Daoud flushes bullets down the toilet, throws away his gun, and hails a taxicab for the airport. Meanwhile, the colonel and Maliheh wait for their friend, watching a slideshow of their homeland in days past. Just then, police headquarters telephones Maliheh, reporting that Daoud is in the hospital. They arrive to find Daoud dead and identify his body. Upon learning his friend was killed in a beating, the colonel realizes Daoud was his intended assassin. Maliheh encourages her brother-in-law to disappear with a new identity, but he refuses to leave his children. The colonel hopes His Eminence will release his wife upon his death, and orders Maliheh to return the youths to their mother in Iran if he is killed. Sometime later, a new assassin arrives at Daoud’s cockroach-infested apartment to resume his mission.  

Production Company: New Film Group  
  ARIA Film Production  
Production Text: The New Film Group and ARIA Film Production present
Distribution Company: New Line Cinema  
Director: Parviz Sayyad (Dir)
Producer: Parviz Sayyad (Prod)
  Reza Aria (Co-prod)
Writer: Parviz Sayyad (Written for the screen)
  Hesam Kowsar (Story)
  Parviz Sayyad (Story)
Photography: Reza Aria (Dir of photog)
  Detlev Niedballa (Asst cam)
Film Editor: Parviz Sayyad (Film ed)
Sound: Yousef Shahab (Sd man)
  Ebrahim Nejad (Sd ed)
  Jack Cooley (Re-rec)
Special Effects: Du Art (Tech works)
  Cineffects (Tech works)
Production Misc: Patricia Francisco (Prod crew)
  Deborah Maier (Prod crew)
  Farid Safavi (Prod crew)
  Robert Yeomans (Prod crew)
Country: Germany and United States
Language: Farsi

Source Text:

Physical Properties: Sd:
  gauge: 16mm

Genre: Comedy-drama
Sub-Genre: Political
Subjects (Major): Assassins
  Secret agents
Subjects (Minor): Assassination
  Family relationships
  New York City
  New York City--Coney Island
  Political corruption
  Religious cults
  Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, 1919-1980
  Secret police
  The Koran

Note: The production credits for this record are incomplete, as the print viewed contained illegible listings, and end credits were prematurely cut off.
       As noted in a 15-21 Jul 1983 LA Weekly article, actor-filmmaker Parviz Sayyad was one of Iran’s most celebrated performers before the 1979 Revolution, when the Shah was overthrown. Although Sayyad was travelling during the Iranian shift in power, and stayed in the U.S. as a refugee, he left behind a rich life in Iran, where he produced and starred in a popular television comedy series broadcast on the National Iranian Radio and Television network called Octopus. While the show presented itself as children’s entertainment to covertly satirize Iranian culture and parody the Shah, it was monitored by the Shah’s SAVAK secret police censors, who would occasionally take Octopus off the air. However, public demand forced the government to keep broadcasting Octopus. Although Sayyad was separated from his wife and two daughters, who remained in Iran after Ayatollah Khomeini gained control over the Iranian government, he was able to bring them to the U.S. at the beginning of 1983.
       The Mission was Sayyad’s first feature film production in the U.S. Despite his distance from Iran, he still feared the picture’s release would incite retaliation from the Khomeini government that might result in his own assassination. Sayyad told LA Weekly he was aware of the danger, noting “the present government in Iran does not see things logically,” and, “they don’t see that if harm comes to me it can only cause more controversy.” Although there was a potential risk, Sayyad reportedly made the picture because he wanted to explore the humanity of two Iranians with opposing allegiances, and illustrate this dichotomy to the American public.
       According to a 10 May 1984 CSM review, the $200,000 film was shot on 16mm film that was later blown up to 35mm for theatrical distribution. One year after The Mission’s first screening on 30 Mar 1983 at the New Directors/New Films Festival in New York City, a 14 Mar 1984 Var news item announced that New Line Cinema acquired distribution rights, and planned an early Apr 1984 opening at New York City’s Cinema 3.
       Although a 14 Aug 1983 LAT commentary criticized Sayyad for being an intellectual and social elitist, using the film to trivialize the “fervor, intense zeal, and hatred of the revolution” and disregarding the “horrible history of assassinations in Iran,” the picture was generally praised by reviewers.
       On 20 Jan 1984, DV published an open letter by Parviz Sayyad protesting the film’s exclusion from Academy Award contention in the Foreign Language category because it was not officially submitted by the Iranian government. Sayyad argued that the Khomeini regime would never have allowed such a film to be made, let alone promote its nomination for an Academy Award. While the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) permitted Sayyad to enter the picture in general U.S. categories because it was filmed in New York City, the filmmaker argued that domestically produced films “made in exile in languages other than English” should be considered as foreign films.

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Christian Science Monitor   10 May 1984   p. 27.
Daily Variety   20 Jan 1984   p. 43.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Apr 1983   p. 14.
Los Angeles Times   25 Jun 1983   p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   14 Aug 1983   pp. 31-32.
LA Weekly   15-21 Jul 1983.   
New York Times   30 Mar 1983   p. 21.
Variety   6 Apr 1983   p. 16, 18.
Variety   14 Mar 1984.   

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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