Caveh Zahedi began making films while studying philosophy at Yale University. After graduation, Caveh moved to Paris to try to raise money for a film about the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, but failed to raise even one centime. He tried to interest French television in a film about the turn-of-the-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge, but again failed. He devoted himself to an experimental music video of a Talking Heads song, which took him two years to complete and was subsequently rejected by David Byrne.
Discouraged but undeterred, he applied for and received a modest grant from the French government for a film adaptation of an obscure prose poem by the French poet Stephane Mallarme. The film took him another two years to complete and, when he screened the final cut to the committee, they voted to discontinue funding the film. Abandoning his dream of being embraced by the French film community, he applied to UCLA film school and moved to Los Angeles.
Together with co-director Greg Watkins, he directed A Little Stiff (1991), an experimental narrative in which he re-enacted his unrequited love for a UCLA art student, using the real-life participants. The film premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival, received modest critical acclaim, and aired on both German television and the Sundance Channel.
Caveh’s next film, I Don’t Hate Las Vegas Anymore (1995), was an attempt to prove the existence of God by means of a road trip to Las Vegas with his Iranian-born father and teenage half-brother. His premise is that if God exists, God will provide whatever events are needed to make the film compelling. But when the film doesn’t seem to be going his way, Caveh resorts to plan B, which involves persuading his father and half-brother to take Ecstasy with him on film. Although virulently panned by most American critics and a box office disaster, the film won the Critics’ Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival and went on to develop a small cult following.
Caveh spent the next five years trying and failing to raise one million dollars to make I Am A Sex Addict (2006). After five years of hitting his head against a wall, he decided to make a film that would cost nothing to make and allow him to practice his craft by shooting something everyday. The result was In the Bathtub of the World (2001), a one-year video diary in which he recorded one minute each day and edited the footage down to ninety minutes. The film aired on the Independent Film Channel and was released on DVD by World Artists (who subsequently went bankrupt).
I Am A Sex Addict (2006) chronicles Caveh’s ten-year struggle to overcome his addiction to prostitutes. The film uses re-enactments, documentary footage and home movies to tell the story of how his addiction began, the havoc it wrecked on his relationships, and how he was finally able to stop. It won the Gotham Award for Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You and was released theatrically by IFC Films.
The Sheik & I (2012), began as an invitation by a Middle Eastern Biennial to make a film on the theme of “art as a subversive act.” Told that he can do whatever he wants except make fun of the Sheik (who rules the country and finances the Biennial), Zahedi decides to do just that, turning his camera on the Biennial itself. But his court jester antics fail to amuse. the film is banned for blasphemy and he is threatened with arrest and a fatwa. The film premiered at SXSW in 2012, was named by Film Comment the best film at SXSW that year, and was picked up for theatrical distribution by Factory 25.
The Show About the Show (2015-2019) is a self-reflexive TV show about its own making in which each episode tells the story of the making of the previous episode.