35+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

New documentary film on 1953 coup in Iran features declassified documents from Archive collection

COUP 53 film
Published: Oct 15, 2019

Edited by Malcolm Byrne

For more information, contact:
202-994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

COUP 53 directed by Taghi Amirani and edited by Walter Murch retells ouster of Mohammad Mosaddeq through recently uncovered documents and interviews

COUP 53 film official teaser

Washington, D.C., October 15, 2019 – A new documentary film offers fresh historical material and perspectives on the 1953 coup in Iran.  COUP 53, directed and co-written by award-winning Iranian-born film-maker Taghi Amirani, is an innovative look at a decades-old story that continues to reverberate in international politics.  After notable selections in festivals from Telluride to London in 2019, the film is currently having premier screenings in a number of U.S., Canadian, and European cities. 

COUP 53, edited and co-writen by multiple Oscar-winner Walter Murch, explores the fascinating history behind the overthrow of a popular Iranian leader, Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, during a dark period of the Cold War.  Covert operatives from the CIA and Britain’s MI6, working closely with a wide range of Iranians from the Shah to a coterie of hand-picked agents, helped to oust a key figure in Iran’s oil nationalization movement, thereby contributing to a lengthy process of entrenchment of the Shah as an autocrat and the growing political alienation of the population, with long-term consequences. 

A generation later, the 1979 Iranian revolution overthrew the Shah and replaced him with a theocratic ruler, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  For the past 40 years, Iran and the United States have continuously confronted each other on the international stage, each side driven by political and historical narratives that can be traced at least in part to the 1953 coup. 

COUP 53 retells the story with the aid of new documents shedding light on Britain’s still-officially-denied role and with creative flourishes such as the appearance of celebrated actor Ralph Fiennes.  The film also sets itself apart by its focus on the personal story of discovery by director Amirani and by its creative use of recently uncovered records and interviews of key players and declassified records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the nongovernmental National Security Archive.  Archive Iran project director Malcolm Byrne is also featured in the production.