Anyone familiar with the idiosyncratic “Holy Moment” section in Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life” will recall the wide-eyed character talking about film’s ability to capture “God incarnate.” But there’s a lot more to the man at the center of that scene. Director Caveh Zahedi’s personal, button-pushing projects have been infused with his energetic personality since 1990’s “A Little Stiff,” his first feature, in which he explores his attraction to a UCLA student. Over the years, Zahedi’s filmography has chronicled many outrageous moments in his life, from 2003’s “Tripping With Caveh,” in which he took mushrooms with Wil Oldham, to 2012’s “The Sheik and I,” a meditation on free speech that followed Zahedi’s ill-fated assignment to produce a subversive project for a Middle Eastern art festival. For years, Zahedi’s work has been elusive, and mostly available only to those who seek it out. But soon you’ll be able to find all of it in the same place.
This week, distributor Factory 25 released “Digging My Own Grave: The Films of Caveh Zahedi,” a bountiful DVD collection of 39 films from the provocative filmmaker’s career as well as a 7-inch vinyl record with songs by Will Oldham and Don Lennon. The collection also features extensive writings by a laundry list of notable figures in the film community and beyond — from scholar Jay Rosenblatt to cartoonist Alison Bechdel and Lena Dunham, whose brief essay that accompanies Zahedi’s 2005 autobiographical “I Am a Sex” can be found alongside a clip from the film below.
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I first saw an ad for “I Am A Sex Addict” in Time Out New York. It wasn’t the scandalously confessional title that got me, but rather Caveh’s look– black coat, cartoon hair-do, eyes wide with something much cheekier than terror. My first thought after seeing the film was: “holy shit, you’re allowed to do that?” Caveh’s work opened me up: as a creator, as a viewer, as a recovering moralist.
Every topic Caveh touches– sex, drugs, politics (in short, the stuff of life)– becomes at once infinitely personal and explosively debatable. The films shock, offend and incinerate with wild ease. What reactions does he plan for and what is innocently woven into the fabric of his alt-comedy chamber dramas? That is just one of what fascinating questions that Caveh’s tremendous body of work asks. Aside from the myriad of reactions you will have to Caveh and, therefore, yourself, you will also witness the most wild n’ woolly yet controlled/composed filmmaker’s touch. Pour through these films.
“Digging My Own Grave: The Films of Caveh Zahedi” is now available here.