This noted Iranian/American filmmaker, poet, actor, author and activist, went from a lavish lifestyle to being homeless on the streets of Los Angeles, and is now is back in a powerful new way as he heads up a top film festival, and released his powerful spiritual poems from his heart-felt poetry book “I Am a Lotus”
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
BEVERLY HILLS, CA (ANS – July 9, 2017) — Throughout his dramatic life, Iranian-born Ata Servati, a talented filmmaker, actor, spiritual poet and author, has always expressed himself by writing a poem or two when touched by an event that had occurred in his life and had “whispered a tone within me a with good voice.”
He had previously left Iran after feeling he was under threat because of his media activities, and ended up in Los Angeles.
“It was my way of releasing what was churning up inside of me; to heal my soul,” Ata explained.
He would use loose sheets of paper ripped from notebooks, or occasionally type them on a computer and have them neatly printed and, although he never kept them, they fortunately always found their way into the hands of others to relieve them of their hardship. He never compiled them for himself.
Then, one day he woke up and decided he was going to start saving his poems and then published three books of poetry.
“There were so many poems spilling out of my mind that I knew they could not fit into just one book, or even two, so I settled on three,” he said.
The reason for this, says Ata, was unknown to him at the time.
“It could have been the constant reoccurring situation in Iran, the casual recommendations by friends, or a soul who rushed into my life and left just as quick during the hardest of times,” he told me in an interview.
He went on to say that there are many times in a person’s life, like his own, when they question the existence of God, whether they are a believer or not.
“This is often caused after witnessing sin after sin, the unjust killing of innocents in Iran, and throughout the world,” he stated. “There is no power that can stop this madness except the power of the people, and love within their heart…”
He added: “Every voice counts and every tear should be wiped away. All hate must be washed from all heart and be replaced by love and the idea of peace.”
Ata said that the sadness he felt within himself while watching television or reading and discussing events that were unfolding in the land of his birth, and elsewhere around the globe, were “indescribable” to him.
Lost everything and lived in his car
The decision to follow a spiritual calling was not an easy one for Ata. He ignored it for many years trying to sustain himself through his creative and business efforts. These efforts, along with his business understanding, led to a lavish life style. Up until then, he had been very successful in all that it did, but then one night he had a dream that he had lost everything and years later, the dream became a reality and it all came crashing down.
It was the traumatic changes in his own life that made it possible for him to “remove the shades” he had covered his eyes with, after having lived such a lavish life, the American dream with everything a man could ask for.
It was such a shock for him to suddenly lose everything and begin living in his car. After huge success and wealth, in a few short years, he became homeless and began hiding from all his friends and those he loved.
“You will find who your real friends are when the hard time comes. In fact, they are hardly any… I should say,” he told me. “I was reminded quickly that you are born alone, and you will die alone.”
Ata said that, amazingly, he experienced the “most peaceful time of my life,” when he was sleeping in his car.
“Due to a broken business relationship and later a divorce, I had lost just about everything. I had less than $85.00 to my name,” he said.
Ata recalled, “Sitting in my car, I would look up at the stars every night, lost between worlds.”
Coming from wealth and fame throughout his life, being homeless in the street of Los Angeles for two months, was extremely painful and hard. But for Ata, he eventually received a wonderful gift – he began to get to know God. “That was the best and most joyful time of my life, as I began to follow path I was supposed to be on,” said Ata.
He also found himself associating with other homeless people, having casual conversations around the fire or deep meaningful snippets that filled their conversations. Each one was a philosopher in their own private world and spoke like one. One lady, in particular, her name was Alexa, helped Ata realize something very important.
“I realized that all of my life, I had been running on empty, dreaming on empty, and living on emptiness,” Ata said. “I learned to thank and pray for a few people who had a role in drastically altering my life.”
What was interesting to him at that period was that he has visions and dreams of everything before they happen to him, and he start documenting them?
“This insight, or gift, was given to me at the age of four by the appearance of an older man when I was calling for God to help my mother during a difficult time in her life,” he said. “At this young age, I did not know who God was. I had just heard my mother calling out for God’s help.”
But, Ata said, he could not stop, or change the course of his dream or its destiny. He had no choice but go through with the event, even if he knew the outcome was at times going to be painful.
But his experience of becoming homeless was different
“As soon as the difficult times came, and the tables were turned around, all of my so-called friends — some of whom I had known for a lifetime — disappeared,” he said. “Still my continuous thanks and prayers go out for these people, for helping me reach the path that I was supposed to walk.”
As a result of his homeless experience, and during the two-month period while still sleeping in his car, Ata wrote two novels — “In Search of Love” and “Baba.”
“I would sleep in my car at night and then, during the day, I would go into a local Starbucks and begin typing on my laptop as fast as I could,” he told me. “This went on for days at a time, typing with one finger and, sometimes I even had problems on how to spell my own name.”
In that extraordinary period, he produced over 900 pages that were typed for his two books. He says that when he was in the last chapter of “Baba,” he was approached by Julie, a long time American friend, who, with her partner, gave him a place to stay.
Within a year he was able to finish his third novel “Married to The Well,” a short film “Cellfish,” which he says is “in discussion to possibly become a TV sitcom.” He also produced four movie scripts, a spiritual poetry book “I Am a Lotus” and four other novels.” It all came pouring out.
At this point in time, Ata says that he was happy that he has finally completed the tasks that he had been “trying to finish for the last twenty years.”
He said, “I must thank the local Starbucks staff who adopted me and treated me like one of their own and even gave me lots of refills for free. And Alexa, and other homeless friends who encouraged me, and sometimes fed me, and shared their thoughts and ideas with me to help me finish my work. You cannot fight destiny — only your reactions to situations that you have been put in.”
Through the many setbacks in his own life, Ata Servati says he has learned some important lessons. He discovered that when he was homeless, that life is not just “material,” but he believes it was God’s Will to allow him to go through this hard experience and find what is important in life, a peace that he had lost track of, or did not know before.
Ata has also learned to forgive the people who he believes “put me through this” and added that he now feels “they were tools for God to guide me in a right direction in life.”
Ata says that “I Am a Lotus: Spiritual poems from the Heart,” is “dedicated to the brave young men and women “whose courage have shocked the world and shaken the dictatorial their life to promote LOVE and PEACE around the globe.”
He added, “They have risked their lives and have even paid with their blood to gain their God-given right of freedom.”
“In Search of Heaven”
Servati is a deeply spiritual man, something that was evidenced in an earlier book he wrote called “In Search of Heaven,” about an American Presbyterian missionary who sacrificed his life for freedom in his homeland.
“It tells the story of the American missionary, Howard Conklin Baskerville, who in 1907 went to Iran, and sacrificed himself for Iranian freedom, after Russians had bombed and destroyed the Iranian parliament and killed all it representatives,” he said. “He is known as ‘The son of Iranian freedom.’ I really wanted to say ‘thank you’ to this man and I want him to be a symbol for living with honor.’”
When asked why he was so interested in the story of an American Christian missionary, he replied, “He did such an extraordinary job with such bravery and heroism. He went behind religion and sacrificed himself for the people that he came to love; people that he didn’t know much about. They were Muslim and that has to be noted.”
In the book, Servati said that Baskerville was search was serving as a teacher in the Presbyterian mission school in Tabriz, Iran. In 1908, during the Constitutional Revolution of Iran, he decided to join the Constitutionalists led by Sattar Khan and fight against the Russian and Qajar despot King Mohammad Ali Shah who was a puppet of Russia and England at the time. He was shot while leading a group of his student that he trained secretly in the mountain, to try and break the Siege of Tabriz, just at the time people had started to die of starvation.”
“Many Iranian nationalists still revere Baskerville as an exemplar of an America that they saw as a welcome ally and a useful ‘third force’ that might break the power of London and Moscow in Tehran,” he said. “Iranians still pay tribute to Baskerville and consider him a martyr. He is buried in Tabriz, Iran.”
Servati went on to say, “The City of Tabriz, where Howard met his end, has recently been postulated as the original ‘Garden of Eden.’ Certified Scholars identify the location next to City of Tabriz as the modern city of Rezahehe (Oromieh), the birth place of Adam and Eve. Christians will be fascinated by this. That includes Jews. The followers of Islam also believe that there was a real birthplace where in Adam and Even were created and call it ‘Bagheh Beheshti,’ which translates as the same thing as ‘Garden of Eden.’”
He said that while researching the book, he has become interested in the teaching of Jesus Christ, and when asked if Christ’s message was needed today more than ever, he replied, “Absolutely yes. It is a must. It is with love, understanding and respect for one another we can live in peace but not with ignorant, bloodshed, and destructions.”
Baba (Father, in Farsi) is the first truly serious and literate look at the cross-cultural drama told in personal terms. Baba is a love story, adventure, and tragedy in the tradition of Doctor Zhivago, with comparisons to the struggles of Gandhi.
“It’s based on the story of an American woman who is manipulated and lied to by her boyfriend, a member of the anti-Shah underground movement, to travel to Iran to look for her father,” said Ata. “It is a story about the 1979 Iranian revolution, and tells of a single CIA woman who overthrew the Shah of Iran, and put Khomeini in power, while she was a mistress to an Ayatollah. It is a novel that many in Holly wood are fighting to get the rights, to even though the novel is not even out yet.”
The film festival.
Now, along with a dedicated team, Ata Servati is preparing for the 2017 Love International Film Festival (LIFF), which will benefit his Lotus Light Children’s Charity, that also is founded by Ata. He says that it has been organized to “promote a week of love, peace and healing through the art of cinema,” and will take place July 18th to 22nd at the iconic Laemmle’s Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills, California, where the various movies will be screened. Then. the awards night on July 22nd will be followed by a private party at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills CA and already over 30 known celebrities are confirmed to attend.
“It is a night of entertainment and celebrations of LOVE,” said Servati.
Tickets for the festival and closing ceremony can be purchased at event Bright; https://www.eventbrite.com/o/love-international-film-festival-14150455637 and Ticketmaster, also at the LIFF official site: www.loveinternationalchildrenfilmfestival.com, and also www.thelotuslightchildrencharity.org
Note: I am honored to reveal that I have been selected to receive a Spirit of Love & Peace Award at the 2017 Love International Film Festival (LIFF). In a letter to me from the film festival organizers, I was told, “The Festival board is pleased to present this award to you for your inspiring achievements and work as an award-winning journalist and humanitarian. Also, as a recipient of this award, you have been selected as the Lotus Light Children’s Charity’s (TLLCC) honorary Love Ambassador around the world.”
And just think, it was the time when Ata Servati lost everything and lived in his car for two months, that turned his life around.
Photo captions: 1) Ata Servati being interviewed by Dan Wooding. 2) Iran 1979: the Islamic revolution that shook the world. 3) Skyline of Los Angeles, but for Ata, his home was his car. 4) Logo for film festival. 5) Book cover, 6) Dan Wooding with some of his many awards. 7) Dan Wooding interviewing Ata at his home before he became homeless.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 54 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on the KWVE Radio Network in Southern California, which is also carried throughout the United States and around the world via www.kwve.com. He also hosts two TV programs, “Windows on the World” (with Garry Ansdell) and “Inside Hollywood with Dan Wooding” both on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv). He began his journalistic career in 1968 working for Billy Graham’s British newspaper, The Christian, and has worked as a writer for Mr. Graham’s media team in Moscow, Russia; Essen, Germany, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.