Party that Ended the World

"Decadence & Downfall, The Shah of Iran’s Ultimate Party", 2016, director: Hassan Amini

In the year 1971, an incredible and fantastic political theme park emerged in Persepolis. The threats of imminent drought were turned into a garden of Eden, changing even the desert climate for the duration of one week. This was a party that the Shah of Iran gave on the 12th of October 1971. On that day, the Shah could not know that his feast would instigate the end of his reign. The Iranian revolution happened soon after, and led to a radical reform of the people’s lives and beliefs, the exile of the Shah and the eventual suicide of his two children.


The party itself was a statement from the Shah’s family, specialized in an old and expensive denotative game of inclusion and exclusion, call it royalty. It was a show for the world, staging the inner life of a grand history — Persian history. The party was so big that airports and highways had to be built in order to transport its special guests to the location, and the ecosystem had to be designed to assure the guests’ comfort and immersion into a full experience of something epic and monumental. The guests included the world’s royalty, kings and queens, the political elite, and the last monarchs and despots of the Cold War era: the leader of the USSR, the vice president of the USA, the emperor of Ethiopia, the king of Denmark, the queen of Belgium, the princess of Jordan, the emirs of Qatar and Bahrain, the kings and queens of Norway and Greece, the sultan of Oman, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, the Duke of Edinburgh, the crown prince of Sweden, governors of Canada and Australia, and so on. The party was held with the hope that through its effects both the enunciator and the audience would be redefined. The Shah wanted to buy cultural credit within a cruel international market: the credit of ‘Iranianness’. The grandiosity of the gesture itself was the signification and its meaning at the same time.


During the preparations in 1971, life in Iran stopped for months: the borders got closed, the roads got blocked, communication was fully surveilled, and a black hole appeared that sucked in the freedom to move and all the wealth of the country. Skeptics might say the memory of that time only too well describes what is happening in Europe today. Is anyone throwing a party?


Last modified: November 20, 2021