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The Iranian Americans

Airs Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: An Iranian American family celebrates the Persian holiday of Nowruz.

Filmed around the United States – from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. – "The Iranian Americans" chronicles the under reported history of a group of immigrants finding refuge, overcoming adversity and ultimately creating new lives in the United States. Even though Iran is in the news virtually every day, many Americans have little knowledge of the story of the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who live in the U.S.

As "The Iranian Americans" shows, the Iranians’ story begins more than two millennia ago in the Middle East, in a land that came to be called Persia. They built an empire that stretched from North Africa to India, from the Caspian to the Red Sea. A people of diverse ethnicities and faiths, they developed rich traditions that endured centuries of migrations and conquests.

Courtesy of PBS

An Iranian American family at Thanksgiving in 1979.

In the second half of the 20th century, the nation, now known as Iran, was racked by political and religious upheaval, leading ultimately to revolution. In 1979, the revolution thrust Ayatollah Khomeini into power, beginning an era when dissent was not tolerated. Tens of thousands of Iranians left their homeland for the United States, a country they would come to call home.

Iranians had been immigrating to America in small numbers for decades, primarily for education, but 1979 saw massive migration. "The Iranian Americans" is an emotional account of displacement told by more than 25 Iranians who were uprooted from their home and heritage and built completely new lives in the U.S.

Iranian Americans, also called Persian Americans, who are featured in the documentary come from diverse backgrounds. They are educators, politicians, diplomats, scientists, comedians, bankers and writers, to name a few. Among the Iranian Americans who provide an emotional and personal perspective on their experience are:

Maz Jobrani – Actor/comedian, who is also part of the “Axis of Evil” comedy group.

Jamshid “Jimmy” Delshad – Politician from California who became mayor of Beverly Hills on March 21, 2007, and again on March 16, 2010. As mayor, he was the highest- ranking elected Iranian-American official.

Firouz Naderi - Director of solar system exploration at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), he managed the Mars exploration program at the time of the landing of heralded twin Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

Goli Ameri – The former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and a former delegate to the United Nations. Currently, she is Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Values and Diplomacy for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Hamid Biglari – A vice-chairman of Citicorp, the main operating arm of Citigroup, a $60 billion revenue business with operations in more than 100 countries.

Video

Preview: The Iranian Americans

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Watch The Iranian Americans - Promo on PBS. See more from The Iranian Americans.

Above: Filmed around the United States, "The Iranian Americans" chronicles the under reported history of a group of immigrants finding refuge, overcoming adversity and ultimately creating new lives in the United States. With Iran in the news virtually every day, many Americans have little knowledge of the story of the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who live here in United States.