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Bahrām Beyzāie (also spelt Beizai, Beyza'i, Persian: بهرام بیضائی, born 26 December 1938) is a critically and popularly acclaimed filmmaker, playwright, theatre director, screenwriter, film editor, and ostād ("master") of Persian letters, arts and Iranian studies.
Bahram Beyzaie is the son of the poet Ne'matallah Beyzai (best known by his literary pseudonym "Zokā'i"). The celebrated poet Adib Beyzai, known as one of the most profound poets of 20th-century Iran, is Bahram's paternal uncle. Bahram Beyzaie's paternal grandfather, Mirzā Mohammad-Rezā Ārāni ("Ebn Ruh"), and paternal great-grandfather, the mulla Mohammad-Faqih Ārāni ("Ruh'ol-Amin"), were also notable poets.
In spite of his somewhat belated start in cinema, Beyzai is often considered a pioneer of a generation of filmmakers whose works are sometimes described as the Iranian New Wave. His Bashu, the Little Stranger (1986) was voted "Best Iranian Film of all time" in November 1999 by a Persian movie magazine Picture World poll of 150 Iranian critics and professionals. Still, even before the outset of his cinematic career in 1970, he was a leading playwright (as well as theater historian), so much so that he is often considered the greatest playwright of the Persian language, and holds a reputation as "the Shakespeare of Persia."
Beyzaie was born in Tehran, to a poet, anthologist and biographer father and a housewife mother. Zokā'i Beyzāie made a living through a legal occupation and was able to attend to his literary interests reasonably.
The young Bahram did not seem very interested in his family legacy, being poetry, which was pursued by his father, uncles and cousins. In high school, the Dar'ol-Fonoun, he wrote two historical plays which went on to become his preferred method of writing. He started skipping school from around the age of 17 in order to go to movies which were becoming popular in Iran at a rapid pace. This only fed his hunger to learn more about cinema and Iranian visual arts.
Beyzai attended the Dar'ol-Fonoun high school as an adolescent, where he did not spend a good time getting along, skipped classes and went to the movies, and in his late teens composed his earliest dramatic pieces.
After school, and after a year of waiting before passing the competitive examination for university admission and meanwhile reading the Shahnameh, he began to study Persian literature at the University of Tehran. But it became impossible for him to stay in the university, particularly because his professors would not accept his researching Persian theatre as a graduate work, arguing that "Persia has had no theatre."
At the age of 21 he did substantial research on the traditional Persian plays, particularly Ta'zieh, and by 1961 he had already spent a great deal of time studying and researching other ancient Persian and pre-Islamic culture and literature. This in turn led him to studying Eastern theatre and traditional Iranian theatre and arts which would help him formulate a new non-Western identity for Iranian theatre. He also became acquainted with Persian painting.