Saint Mary — as seen on Iranian television

Saint Mary — as seen on Iranian television November 21, 2006

One of the people I spoke to at the Nativity Story junket nine days ago was Shohreh Aghdashloo, the Iranian actress who plays Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Near the end of our interview, she mentioned a film that I had never heard of before:

SA: As a matter of fact, I found out that the only place that they had made a film about Saint Mary is in Iran, and I got my hands on it, and my brother bring it over last week, and I watched it. Obviously it’s been distorted, it’s not the real story —

PTC: What’s the name of the film?

SA: Saint Mary. In Farsi, of course. It’s a six-hour television film.

Aghdashloo isn’t quite correct about this film being the “only” film about the Virgin Mary — the American TV-movie Mary, Mother of Jesus (1999) and the French TV-movie Mary of Nazareth (1995) both come to mind — but both of those films, as I vaguely recall, basically relay the story of the canonical gospels from Mary’s point of view, whereas this Iranian TV-movie, for all I know, may be the first film to depict episodes from Mary’s birth, infancy and childhood that are found only in the apocryphal gospels.

As it happens, a brief bit of Googling turns up a few video clips. The film has a website that includes two sets of clips from the film — one of which features some rather awful English dubbing — and YouTube has a subtitled set of clips from the film, but the sound is so badly out of sync in places that it’s like watching the “Yes! Yes! Yes!” “No! No! No!” sequence from Singin’ in the Rain (1952).

Still, some interesting data does emerge from these clips. It seems the film begins with the birth of Mary in 16 B.C., and it seems the people were expecting a saviour to be born at that time — and they are disappointed, even scandalized, to discover that the promised child is a girl and not a boy. After that, we get scenes of priests debating whether Mary should be allowed into the Temple, and assigning her a guardian — scenes that would seem to be derived, directly or indirectly, from the Protoevangelion of James.

Anyway, I don’t know when or if I’ll ever get a chance to see the full film, but for now, I am definitely intrigued.

Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

NOV 23 UPDATE: Matt Page at the Bible Films Blog notes that this film seems to be influenced by the Koran, too. Very interesting …

DEC 1 UPDATE: Apparently the full six-hour version of this show, with subtitles, is available for sale in the PAL format here.

DEC 7 UPDATE: You could always try watching the film online.

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  • Hi Peter,

    Great find!! I could only see one “clip” so to speak, although it seemed to be a series of clips edited together. Am I being blind?


  • The clip I’ve embedded here is the YouTube clip; the other two clips are at the website for the film. (I’m tempted to call it the “official” website for the film, but I’m not sure that that would be accurate.)

    The website offers the film for sale, but the only version I see there is 114 minutes — not the six hours indicated by Aghdashloo — and it’s been dubbed into English without subtitles (ugh).

  • Yeah I’d gone to the website, but could only se one clip (or colleciton of clips) albeit with two links to it “watch…” and “download”..). Please help me out if I’m being obtuse.


  • At the bottom of the home page, there are a number of links, most of which link to reading materials — but there is also one that says “Watch Virgin Mary Movie Mother of Jesus Christ Online”, which links to a 5:43 RealPlayer clip; and there is one that says “Watch Virgin Mary Promo Mother of Jesus Christ Online” which links to a 1:27 RealPlayer clip.

  • Anonymous

    It’s great that you guys found this. Al Manar translatted it to Arabic, and I believe there were english subtitles, not sure. The series was played on ART, and al Manar during Ramadan. I watched it, and must say that it is one of the best religious themed tv series I’ve watched.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Peter,

    You can watch the original film in Google videos (no dubbing) with english subtitles.

  • Dawud

    the full series is here

    its the correct islamic version of events