Caveh Zahedi, Sainthood & Artistry: July 23-31

The truth is that we are all manifestations of the genius of God. The artist is no different than anyone else except insofar as he is closer to the source of his Being. But today, the artist has acquired the status of a saint, and the culture of celebrity has become our new religion. Only instead of a panoply of saints, known for their virtue and good works, we have movie stars and rock stars as religious icons. These people are worshiped not because of their spirituality or wisdom, but rather because they enable us to project a more grandiose image of ourselves, namely that, like them, we too can be more important and powerful than we actually feel ourselves to be.

— Caveh Zahedi

The film, narrated and starred in by the director, documents a sex addict’s journey through recovery. Zahedi begins with his first soulful relationship, and then proceeds through the other major relationships in his life, trying in each depiction to discover the source of his problem and ways in which to diffuse it. His final barbaric yalp and break from addiction coalesces with his ability to hear a more beautiful song than what the Sirens were singing. This moment of epiphany was what intrigued me about the film. I wanted to know what made Zahedi break from his addiction. I knew it was something beyond a metaphor. I knew it was what each of us searches for in our artistry, daily jobs, family experiences, etc. It was at the core of I AM A SEX ADDICT. It was also at the core of this beautiful artist.

Pirooz Kalayeh: At the L.A. screening, you said you weren’t happy with the ‘sirens metaphor,’ but that this was the closest you had come to creating your transitional moment away from sexual addiction. You also mentioned certain ‘spiritual experiences,’ which lead you to your present moment of stability. Were you afraid to present these spiritual experiences as part of the film, and therefore, used the ‘sirens metaphor,’ or was it just too detailed of an experience to add?

Caveh Zahedi: My initial impulse was to use the word "God" in talking about my spiritual transformation. But I didn't want to alienate viewers who identify that word exclusively with the "God" of organized religion. The Sirens metaphor was therefore a way to talk about spirituality without alienating viewers who identified themselves as atheists or agnostics or even Buddhists. In other words, I wanted my spiritual transformation to be as all-inclusive as possible, and to allow people to interpret it in their own way and through the lens of their own experiences.

PK: Yes, I hear that. It reminds me of your experience with the clairvoyant. She told you that a reading on the future of “…Sex Addict” would actually misalign the possibilities, and that an omission would place you closer to the truth, and to a further extent, in right relationship with spirit, creator, etc.

Was this a further reason not to make a spiritual commentary? That, possibly, like the clairvoyant, your omission of an exact spiritual transcendence, would leave an empty canvas for other addicts to discover their own journey to peace?

CZ: Yes, exactly.

PK: It is a huge undertaking to be in right relationship. It is a saint’s act. Are you aiming for sainthood or artistry? Is there even a separation for you?

CZ: I don't see a fundamental separation between sainthood and artistry. I believe that spirituality has an aesthetic dimension, and is, in a very real sense, "beautiful." I also believe that art has a spiritual dimension. My interest is in eradicating the distinction between these two pursuits.

PK: Was this intention in mind when you wrote "...Sex Addict" or was it something that you discovered at the end of the experience?

CZ: I've believed in the essential oneness of spirituality and art for a long time. It was my intention to try to express this through "I Am A Sex Addict" from the start. In Hindu Philosophy, there's something called "The Left Hand of God" which is basically the path of sin as the fastest path to enlightenment. I've always thought about "I Am A Sex Addict" as an instance of "The Left Hand of God" path towards spirituality.

PK: Fascinating. I didn't see the sexual exchanges between prostitutes in "I AM A SEX ADDICT" as sinful. And now that you say your intention was to reach enlightenment through sin, it just diffuses the sexual acts even further. Isn't it intention that makes something sin? Yours is to align spirituality with your artistry. It is to proceed through "The Left Hand of God" process. With such a precursor, how can your sexual acts be sin?

CZ: I don't think that sexual acts are sins. In fact, I don't believe in the idea of sin. What I meant by "sin" was acting out of harmony with one's essential nature, or rather, misperceiving one's essential nature. But there is such a thing as one's dark side, and I think that one has to go through one's dark side to become fully integrated. In this sense, "I Am A Sex Addict," like Dante's "Inferno," is about exploring the dark side to get to the light.

PK: Have you shown the film to sex addicts or have any approached you after screenings? Did they see a light? What was their reaction? And what was yours to them?

CZ: I haven't formally shown the film to sex addicts, but after almost every screening, someone comes up to me and confides that they, too, have a sexual addiction problem. These people have always been very touched by the film and very glad that I made it.

PK: I am glad you did as well. It is such a beautiful film. Thank you for sharing it with me and the world.

Caveh Zahedi began making films while studying philosophy at Yale University. After graduating from Yale, he made several attmepts to work in the French film community and then began film school at UCLA. There, he met and began collaborating with Greg Watkins. Together, they co-directed A Little Stiff, which premeired at the Sundance Film Festival, and aired on both German television and the Sundance Channel. Mr. Zahedi's next film, I Don't Hate Las Vegas Anymore, won him the Critics' Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival and went on to develop a cult following. He then went on to direct In the Buthtub of the World, a one year video diary, which airred on the Independent Film Channel and was eventually released on DVD. Mr. Zahedi lives and works in San Francisco.

To learn more about Caveh’s latest projects or to catch a screening of I AM A SEX ADDICT in the states or abroad please visit


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Anonymous said...

Love this. So interesting.

jwg said...

I need to know who you are anony.

best wishes