Article written by 2008 DPDF Urban Visual Studies Fellow Mona Damluji, featured in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Volume 33, No. 1: 


As the most widely circulated cinematic portrait of Abadan under full administration of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), the AIOC film Persian Story offers an exceptional opportunity to examine the ways in which the British company linked the idea of modernity to the image of Western aesthetics of urbanism in the oil city. Damluji argues that the AIOC produced this cinematic spectacle of urbanism in order to control the image of oil modernity in Iran. This article first examines the discursive practices — the verbal exchanges, ideas, decisions, and conditions — that made Persian Story a major cinematic event in Britain and a durable visual record of oil modernity in Iran. It further analyzes the visual composition and narrative of the film in order to understand how AIOC’s network of executives and filmmakers selected and managed representations of urban space and society in Abadan. In Persian Story oil modernity is made legible in the spaces of leisure shaped by British town planning. Meanwhile, the film renders invisible the spaces of Abadan’s working class, whose demands for fair wages, regular hours, and decent living conditions were routinely neglected by the oil company. As a result, the segregation and inequality that defined the oil city for so many Iranian workers are absent from Persian Story. Yet, even after the nationalization movement in 1951 forced British employees to evacuate the oil city, the film was applauded in London theaters and classrooms as “the clearest impression” the world had of Abadan.

Publication Details

The Oil City in Focus: The Cinematic Spaces of Abadan in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s Persian Story
Damluji, Mona
Duke University / Duke University Press
Publish Date
January 2013
Damluji, Mona, The Oil City in Focus: The Cinematic Spaces of Abadan in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s Persian Story (Duke University / Duke University Press, January 2013).