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Paul Zaentz Debuts New Film
The Coup 53 production team

Paul Zaentz, Beta Pi ’69, has produced a new film that is currently making waves at some of the most prestigious film festivals world-wide. His film, a documentary titled “COUP 53”, has been accepted to be shown at the London, Telluride, Vancouver, and Mill Valley Film Festivals. The Telluride Film Festival presented the World Premiere on August 31, 2019.

Paul is currently part owner and executive for Fantasy Films/The Zaentz Co. that made three movies which earned Oscars for best picture: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Amadeus”, and “The English Patient”. Four years ago, he became a producer for COUP 53, and he has worked tirelessly since then to produce the picture, which has intrigued viewers and received rave reviews since its completion. “COUP 53” is a documentary that follows the U.S. and British involvement in the 1953 removal of the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, and the reinstatement of the Shah as Iran’s leader that eventually led to the 1978-79 installation of a fundamentalist Islamic regime in Iran.

Brother Zaentz produced this film as a collaborative effort with Taghi Amirani, a refugee from Iran whose family settled in England. Mr. Amirani acts as a writer and the director of the film. “COUP 53” received tremendous critical acclaim at the Telluride Film Festival.

Following two sold out showings at Telluride, a third showing was added that was also sold out. WhatsOn, an internet critic for new films, after setting forth the historical events investigated by the documentary, describes “COUP 53” as “a captivating tour-de-force”, and further states, “Amirani’s compelling documentary ensures that this is one history lesson that you won’t forget”.

Here is how Todd McCarthy, in The Hollywood Reporter, an internationally recognized and influential critic of new films, describing the Iranian change in government and its treatment by the film-makers of “COUP 53”, describes the documentary: “Arguably one of the most consequential but little discussed decisions of the post-World War II era is enthrallingly dissected in ‘COUP 53’”. He goes on to mention, “Amirani’s passionate and fearless work” and “The centrality in world affairs that Iran has achieved over the past half-century almost automatically bestows ‘COUP 53’ with special interest that is greatly augmented by the driven, eccentric and historical hyper-obsessiveness Amirani brings to the project”. He concludes, “…the film will enthrall documentary and history geeks. After a run through festivals, this dense and idiosyncratic work should and must find homes on docu-friendly channels world-wide.”

On Thursday, October 17, 2019, COUP 53 had a private screening to a full house in a Washington D.C. theater. Brother Zaentz was very gratified by the warm reception the film received in D.C., but he could not rest on his laurels. The next morning, he had to scramble up to New York City to prepare for the private screening on Friday, October 18, 2019, to be held at the SVA Theater in the Chelsea district of New York City.

To get the best seats available, NYC Pikes began to arrive at 6:30pm for a program that was to begin at 7:30pm. First to arrive was Morty Cohen, Beta Pi ’65, and Joel Catania, Beta Pi ’71, accompanied by his wife, Donna. They were greeted by Paul Zaentz and partner, Eugenia Melian. Shortly thereafter, Bruce Wolfson, Beta Pi ’71, and his wife Ellen arrived, followed by Paul Newman, Beta Pi ‘73, and his wife Carol. After settling into their seats, Ross Weiner, Beta Pi ’80, came walking up the aisle. He had secured seats on the other side of the auditorium for himself and his wife Lisa Goldstein.

At 7:30pm, Taghi Amirani took the microphone to give an opening welcome to all in attendance. He explained why it took ten years from beginning to end to create “COUP 53”: funding for a documentary was difficult and when funds were too low, there were stretches when all production was halted.Paul Zaentz Debuts New Film

He then introduced the persons primarily responsible for the film, including Paul Zaentz, the Producer. After “signing on” four years ago, Paul was able to bring the documentary to completion. Also introduced was Walter Murch, world-renowned film editor, who gave an overview of how much time and effort was necessary to complete this “small film” that has evolved into a widely acclaimed major documentary. Brother Zaentz advises that the film will be in theaters early in 2020. He expects the film will receive an Academy Award nomination in 2021.

Following the showing of the film, the audience showed its appreciation with sustained applause, a reaction that you do not normally see in a movie theater. A panel discussion and “Q and A” closed out the evening. Our thanks to Paul for our invitations to an event Taghi Amirani described as the “New York Premiere of all Premieres”, as well as our congratulations to Paul and his team on the completion of the film, and our best wishes for the continued success of his latest accomplishment in 2020 and 2021.