Steve thinks he’s uncovered the largest unreported art heist in the history of the United States, involving the Mafia, the FBI, and potential stolen masterpieces. But most importantly, the victim is someone he considers a very close friend: Her Imperial Majesty Farah Pahlavi, the exiled Queen of Iran, whom he used to bodyguard.
Armed with a bulldog mentality, Steve embarks on a quixotic quest to find her art. But the bolder he gets, the less clear it becomes how interested the Queen actually is, prompting the filmmakers to investigate the investigator: Why is Steve really doing this? And will he ever stop?
"A fascinating portrait of obsession"
- Hollywood Reporter
"A WTF story on so many levels you have to see this for yourself "
- Unseen Films
Hollywood Reporter – Review
Unseen Films – Review
Non-Fiction Film – Exclusive Clip and Interview
Doc Edge Film Festival – Video Q&A with Daniel Claridge, Andrew Coffman and Steve Talt
FOX31 Denver – Interview with Daniel Claridge and Andrew Coffman
Daniel Claridge (Co-Director) is a filmmaker whose work includes both documentary and fiction film. Most recently, Daniel was the writer and editor of "Persuasion Machines" (2020), a Virtual Reality experience that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as a co-editor and animator on the Netflix Documentary "The Great Hack" (2019). Previously, his documentary short film "Dragstrip" (2015) screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival.
Andrew Coffman (Co-Director) is a filmmaker and editor based in New York City. His editing credits include the HBO documentaries "I Love You, Now Die" (2019), "Mommy Dead and Dearest" (2017), and "Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop" (2015), as well as feature documentaries such as "The Gospel According to André" (2018), "The First Monday in May" (2016) and "Ivory Tower" (2014). His work has been distributed by outlets such as HBO, CNN and Magnolia Pictures, and has played at film festivals including Sundance, TIFF, Hot Docs and TriBeCa.
Andrew Rossi (Producer) is an Emmy-nominated director and producer of documentaries including, among others, "Page One: Inside The New York Times" (2011), following the paper’s media desk; "Ivory Tower" (2014), about the challenges facing higher education; and "The First Monday in May" (2016), about the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute. Through his production company Abstract, Andrew produces work with a range of directors and partners including HBO, Netflix, Participant Media and Magnolia Pictures.
Michael Coffman (Composer) is an award winning sound designer, mixer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist who has been in the commercial field for 10 years working with brands including Almay, Burger King, Target, Coach Bags, Sour Patch Kids, and the New York Public Library. He has also mixed and scored a variety of feature length and short films over the years while maintaining personal projects like Edward Korft and Edward Korft Goes Electric.
The following is a memo written by Steve Talt about the final conclusions of his investigation.
If you find something wrong, what have you done to correct it by the end of the day?
– Her Imperial Majesty Farah Pahlavi
Over the years, starting in 1988 with the release of "Donnie Brasco" followed by the The New York Times article dated August 1, 1982 titled "Agent Tells Jury Posing As A Thief" that summarized relevant testimony concerning the stolen art in the federal Court case of the Donnie Brasco investigation concluding with the publication in 2003, of "A Friend of the Family; An Undercover Agent In The Mafia", I became convinced that The Royal Family of Iran's art had been stolen and the Royal Family was never made aware of this heist.
Over the years, every time I read about a priceless artifact being found I often thought, Is this one of the stolen pieces form the Shah's collection, looted in 1980? Wouldn't it be nice to know for once and all what was stolen! So, In 2015 I set out on this journey to find the truth.
More importantly, I knew how much Her Majesty enjoyed art yet her walls in her home were bare. I wanted to help reunite her with what she once lost and may had valued.
After four years, over a thousand hours of investigation as well as miles traveled, with the help of 62 individuals to include a Retired Federal Judge, FBI Agents, etc, here are the facts:
1. The Shah's personal belongings from his overseas residences, London and St. Moritz, Switzerland were stolen between 27 May and 2 June 1980.
2. The gangsters from New York City took 32 photos of what was stolen then gave these photos to an undercover FBI Agent from the Donnie Brasco Investigation on June 6, 1980. These photos were introduced as evidence: Exhibits 44A - 44Z and 44AA - 44FF. in the federal court case: US Gov't vs Dominick Napolitano (Sonny Black) & others. These photos were never shown or given to Royal Family.
3. Shortly, after the first heist on 27 May 1980, on the suggestion of an undercover FBI Agent, posing as a shady art dealer, Sonny Black, capo of mafia crew, offered the stolen valuables on consignment to the undercover FBI Agents. Washington DC did not authorize transfer despite being briefed days, earlier, how some one in New York City had placed a down payment on the Shah's art collection.
FBI surveillance photo of the Bonanno Crime Family
This is puzzling! In 1978, The FBI Brass testified in a Senator Ted Kennedy hearing on their new policy of using US government monies to recover stolen property. They boasted how in 1977, $109 million in stolen property was recovered for $900,000.
One must ask, "Then why was the Shah's stolen valuables not recovered on consignment or even purchased?"
As with the TV Special "Al Capone's Safe" by Geraldo Rivera, one would think that the stolen valuables of the Shah would be a King's ransom. There is no telling!
No documentation or the 32 photos could be found through seven FOIA ( Freedom of Information Act) requests to identify what was stolen. My investigation did conclude that seven paintings were stolen of which three may have had remarkable value.
However, weeks after the heist, Sonny Black sold a few pieces off for $100,000. It is a universally accepted fact that stolen art sells anywhere between 3 to 10% of market value. Do the math! This approximates the value of these few pieces between $1 to $3 million in US dollars in 1980 values.
To put this in prospective, a David Hockney painting that sold in 1979 for $19,000 was auctioned for $91 million in 2019.
There is no way to place a proper multiple on the Shah's valuables without knowing what was stolen.
There is also the sentimental value of what the Royal Family may have attached to these pieces that can not be measured in money.
One can only conclude that this was the perfect crime because of the US government's failure to do their job or more importantly to remember that the Shah was once a good friend to the USA.