Kimia Zabihyan - Producer. Writer. Director


Kimia Zabihyan in Myanmar

Kimia Zabihyan with Don King and Nelson Mandela

Kimia Zabihyan with Hugo Chavez

Kimia Zabihyan with Muhammad Ali

Kimia Zabihyan

Kimia Zabihyan with Bernard Hopkins

Kimia Zabihyan

Kimia Zabihyan with Tommy Hearns

Kimia Zabihyan in Myanmar

Kimia Zabihyan with the Wu Tang Clan

Kimia Zabihyan

Kimia Zabihyan with Evander Holyfield

Kimia Zabihyan

Kimia Zabihyan with Roy Jones Jr.

Kimia Zabihyan

Kimia Zabihyan with Tito Trinidad


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Kimia Zabihyan In 1988, at the young age of 24,  during an economically critical time for the newspaper industry, Kimia suggested an audacious and innovative move to the Observer Newspaper in the UK.  Her idea was to set up an independent television production company Observer Films for the prestigious Observer newspaper.  It came at a time when multi-platform output by newspapers was not acceptable practice in the newspaper industry.  And it diversified the interests of the paper precisely at a time when it needed to in order to stay competitive in the business by generating much needed cash and enhacing the brand image.

Kimia ZabihyanKimia took the idea directly to the Chief Executive (Nicholas Morrell), and the Editor (Donald Trelford) of the Observer Newspaper in London (the oldest Sunday paper in the world established in 1791) and successfully pitched the notion that the paper could have a wholly owned subsidiary television production arm producing programming that enhanced the brand image of the newspaper and established the existing brand in a different medium - television.  The paper's resources were utilized to generate further revenue, the reporters were given a platform to promote themselves and the newspaper, and expensive investigative reporting and overheads of the main paper were effectively subsidized by budgets paid for by the television companies. It was a very successful venture both commercially and from a marketing point of view for the brand image. 

Within a few months, several high profile documentaries and news specials aired on BBC and ITV (the main commercial TV network) in primetime slots.  Most notably "Lord of the Golden Triangle" a daring documentary on the heroin trail filmed in Burma for ITV primetime as a "World In Action Special", and the only interview ever granted by Mr. Niet  "Andrei Gromyko"  for the BBC's highly respected "Newsnight". 

Observer Films quickly grew into a profitable and respected production company producing high quality documentaries and investigative programmes for the major television stations in the UK.  These programmes were widely distributed worldwide generating healthy licence fees from foreign sales for the company and enhancing the brand image and awareness of the parent company newspaper worldwide.

In 1993 The Observer Newspaper was purchased by The Guardian Media Group.  Observer Films was the only other part of the business to be purchased together with the main newspaper title.  Quite an achievement for a venture that had been established less than 10 years.

Kimia ZabihyanAfter several of her documentaries won prestigious prizes at global film festivals,  Kimia was contacted by HBO in the US to produce a documentary for the channel's highly respected "America Undercover" slot.   Kimia left the Guardian Media Group in London to set up KZ Films in the US and produced and directed "Death By Hanging" an HBO "America Undercover" Special.  This was a groundbreaking and controversial documentary following the story of an African American’s search for justice after their son was found hanging by the neck right after the acquittal of OJ Simpson.  The community believed the suspicious death to be a lynching.   “Black men don’t hang themselves” was the motto but the white ruling establishment of  the city regarded it as a straight forward suicide.  Producing the film in such tense and divisive circumstances was challenging and yielded an emotionally intense film that garnered the attention of high profile American celebrities and opinion makers.  HBO scheduled the film during Black History month to much praise.


Soon after airing of this film Kimia was contacted by Don King, the legendary Boxing promoter and American icon to work with him on some of his projects to further the cause and politics of African American experience for a worldwide audience through film and television. 

Since 1999, Kimia Zabihyan has held the post of VP of Television, Marketing and Innovation at Don King Productions a brand leader in the area of sports promotion based in the United States but promoting and staging events around the world.  Working directly to Don King, Kimia has enjoyed a privileged birds eye view of American business,  marketing, media, sports, politics and of course celebrity grandeur for 10 years.  Very valuable experience.

Kimia has been responsible for television, marketing and promotion of over 100 high profile sports events over the last 10 years at all the major US venues  and also in Europe.  Kimia has hired and built a strong in house creative services department for Don King Productions which includes photography department, web, television, graphics and publishing.  She has also managed partnerships and sponsorship deals on behalf of Don King Productions as well as overseeing the development of the Don King brand in other areas such as video games.  She has developed key relationships with venues, executives and management of brand name American venues and institutions such as Madison Square Gardens, Staples Center in LA, United Center in Chicago, Caesar’s Palace, MGM Grande in Las Vegas, MGM at Foxwoods, and products such as Nike, Crocks, Pappa John Pizzas, Sean John, Warner Music, and 2K Games.

PERSONAL

Kimia was born in Tehran, Iran and arrived in London at the age of 10 unable to speak English.  Her love of television and mass communication was fuelled by experience.   Her father was a well respected writer and journalist who  imparted a love of journalism and its importance and relevance in society.   Exposure to sophisticated television programming on British television excited her curiosity about the world and the medium.

By the age of 16 Kimia was one of the youngest students at Aberdeen University studying an MA in Psychology with Education.   She successfully completed a year before being encouraged to transfer to London University to study a pioneering new course in Communications.

Kimia's first job in the industry was working for the brilliant independent producer Brian Eastman, the award winning British feature film, television and stage play producer of groundbreaking  shows such as "Traffik", "Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot Series", "Porterhouse Blue",  "Blott on the Landscape", “Jeeves and Wooster” as well as "Shadowlands" a movie and stageplay based on the life of CS Lewis.  Kimia benefited hugelyfrom the generous guidance of Brian Eastman where she was involved in all aspects of production and under his tutelage learned a great deal about production.  On his encouragement she went on to produce her first film at the age of 24 for The newly formed Observer Film Company which she set up for the newspaper.  It was the daring documentary on the trail of the world's biggest heroin trafficker, the Burmese Warlord Khun Sa.  This involved a clandestine trip across the border into Burma's opium country and living with Khun Sa's heroin army for 8 weeks in the jungles of Burma

PRODUCTION LIST

"DEATH BY HANGING" - HBO America Undercover Special.  This harrowing film followed the plight of an African American family in Virginia who believed the mysterious death of their son found hanging by the neck in public, hours after the OJ Simpson acquittal was in fact a lynching in retaliation to O.J's acquittal.  The explored the divisive issue of race in America and was particularly prescient and meaningful in its observations of racial politics of America at a time when the issues were not being discussed on mainstream American television.   The film caused the FBI to reopen the investigation and won several awards.

"Lords-A-Lobbying" - C4 "Dispatches" investigation exposing lobbyist activity in the House of Lords in the British Parliament.  A follow up to the highly controversial and successful investigation "Who Pays the Gas Bill" (see below).  (with Westminster Correspondent for The Guardian, David Hencke)

"Who Pays The Gas Bill" - C4 - "Dispatches".  An investigation into corruption by top Tory members in the British Parliament.  This expose set the home news agenda for weeks and commanded front page coverage forcing the Prime Minister, John Major to make statements in Parliament.  It was dubbed as the "Cash for Amendments Scandal" and caused a severe challenge to the Conservative Party and for a while even threatened a call for an early election. (with Westminster Correspondent for The Guardian, David Hencke)

"Correspondent" - BBC.  Two authored essay films by award winning senior foreign correspondents, Maggie O'Kane (The Guardian) in Haiti and Julie Flint (The Observer)  in Beirut, Lebanon.

"The Yardies" - ITV - An observational documentary deep in the heart of the notorious ghetto communities of Kingston Jamaica.  This film created much debate in the media and at a political level.  It was described as "brave deep penetration stuff", a "fascinating probe into ghetto life", the "best documentary set in a ghetto", and "a powerful film that focuses on the persistence of hope over experience."

"Spy In The Camp" - C4 "Dispatches" - An investigation into the notorious MI5 (British Secret Services) dirty tricks campaign to crush the Miner's strike which posed a major political threat to Margaret Thatcher.  Described by The Times as a "robust edition of a current affairs programme" and a "riveting film, the programme disclosed the identity of the "agent planted in the Miner's union by MI5. (With then Industrial correspondent, currently Comments Editor for The Guardian,  Seamus Milne)

"Frontline" - C4 "Dispatches"  An authorative look at the state of Republicanism in Northern Ireland including in-depth interviews with Gerry Adams and other key players in the conflict in Northern Ireland.  The Times said, "the film produces compelling viewing that helps bring a better understanding of what 25 years of army occupation means to the Irish." (with Malachi O'Doherty)

"The Secrets of Porton Down" - ITV - an investigation into the secret government military establishment Porton Down and the use of human guinea pigs to develop chemical and biological warfare.  The Daily telegraph described the film as "an astringent piece of television journalism.  This harrowing documentary left one with a sense of shame, disgust and righteous indignation."  (with Callum MacRae)

"Big Fish in China" - C4 - "Everything you ever wanted to know about China's golden cinema couple, award-winning Zhang Yimou and his leading lady and private partner Gong Li.  This documentary appears to have passed the censors unscathed.  Location shooting on masterpieces "Yellow Earth", "Red Sorghum", "Raise the Red Lantern" and perceptive talk from the leads themselves.  Terrific."  Daily Telegraph.

"Frontline" - C4 - "The fiction that Northern Ireland is part of the UK was further undermined by this week's excellent Frontline programme.  Tonight's powerful edition comes from Northern Ireland, and is a damning account of the trigger-happy actions of the authorities.  The film investigates stories of four young people shot dead in questionable circumstances.  Strong stuff deserving of a longer slot."   (with Malachi O'Doherty)

"Fields Of Darkeness" - BBC - An investigation into the links between Benomyl, a widely used pesticide made by DuPont, and Anophtalmia, a horrific condition where babies are born with no eyes.  This film was the basis for a long running campaign in The Observer newspaper.  The families of Anophtalmia children successfully sued DuPont (in the US).  The research and facts in the film formed an important part in their legal action.

(with John McGhee of The Observer Newspaper)

"The Battle of Twyford Down" - C4 "Dispatches"  - An investigation into how one of the most protected and ancient English landscapes came to be dug up for an eight lane motorway.

"Deadly Diets" - C4 "Dispatches" - Proof that dieting can kill.  This film presented alarming evidence regarding dieting and health.

"Our Backyard" - C4 "Dispatches" - A second series of the award winning environmental series featuring ordinary peopole taking on the might of the state.

"Gladio" - BBC - Three one hour series looking at the 'stay behind' networks set up by the CIA and scattered across Europe after the end of WWII.  This challenging political series unearthed evidence revealing the involvement of these structures in state sponsored terrorism.  This series has been described as "outstanding", a "seminal piece of work", "jaw-dropping revelations that should bring down governments" by the Sunday Times newspaper.   The evidence in this series was seized by the Italian government and caused the re-opening of the investigation into the kidnapping and murder of the Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, by The Red Brigades.  The programmes featured interviews with six former diretors of the CIA, as well as Francesco Cossiga, the Italian President and also former active terrorists in the Red Brigades as well as the head of the P2 Masonic Lodge and an army of intelligence footsoldiers.  Described by The Independent newspaper as "a scholarly piece of television history which has assembled an impressive cast of witnesses."  This series had simultaneous transmission in Britain, Italy and Belgium and was distributed to over 25 countries around the world.

"Law of the Ghetto" - C4 "Dispatches" - An investigation into the IRA's policing of the Catholic ghetto communities.  This film was the first to reveal the extent of punishment shootings and kneecappings by the IRA and talked to the victims of IRA 'justice' (with Malachi O'Doherty)

"War Stories" - two authored films marking the anniversary of the Falklands War.  One featuring Ian Mather, Defence correspondent arrested and charged with being a British spy took him back to the Southernmost city in the world - Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.  The other film was the story of Virginia Gamba-Stonehouse, an Argentine military strategist's view of the war.  "However partial the views, one could not question their authenticity." - the Times newspaper.

"Our Backyard" - C4 - First series of an innnovative environmental series featuring grass roots campaigns by ordinary people against the might of multinationals and government bureaucracies.

"Dark Passage" - C4 - A terrifying confession to camera by Cesar Joya Martinez of his work as a killer and torturer for the death squads of El Salvador where -35,000 civilians have met with sudden death.  The film was presented to US Congress and was part of the campaign to halt military aid to El Salvador by the US Government.  This was the first public testimony by a perpetrator of death squad atrocities and gave e idence of US complicity in those activities.

"The Great Green Hype" - C4 "Dispatches" - A film about the economics of recycling.

"El Salvador" - C4 - special news report investigating the murder of six Jesuit Priests, their housekeeper and her daughter, by the death squads in El Salvador.  This investigation led to the longer documentary film "Dark Passage" see above.

"The Falklands" - C4 - special news report from this outpost of Britain far in the Atlantic.

"Andrei Gromyko" BBC - the only in-depth interview ever granted by the elder Soviet Statesman.  This exclusive interview filmed at Gromyko's private residence outside Moscow ran in three long segments on consecutive nights on Newsnight.

"Lord of the Golden triangle" - ITV  "World In Action Special" - "Lord of the Golden triangle marks a confident debut by the Observer Film Company subsidiary of the upmarket Sunday Observer newspaper which produced this complex but fascinating account of the heroin trade in the Shan Hill region of Burma." VARIETY

"Golden triangle was as worthwhile as one imagines, it was dangerous to film." The Independent

"The Observer's TV offshoot gets off to a strong start with this behind enemy lines slice of reportage.  A small film crew snuck into Burma's backyard to interiew Khun Sa, seemingly at great risk - foreign journalists caught trespassing in the Golden triangle are not usually patted on the back and given cups of tea." The Times.