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Zahra Dowlatabadi

Zahra Dowlatabadi

Animation producer, consultant | Los Angeles | Class of 1983

This Illini memory is dedicated to the late Alex Doty, who passed away in 2012 after being struck by a motorcycle while on vacation in Bermuda.

The popular film studies professor’s impact on a young Zahra Dowlatabadi was nothing less than “life-changing," she says from Los Angeles.

“It made me profoundly sad to learn that Alex has passed away but the tragic news is not a reason to write about him,” says Dowlatabadi (BA '83, English/film), an acclaimed animation producer whose work history includes stops at Warner Brothers, Disney and Hanna-Barbera.

“I landed at U of I by the way of Scotland and England. Born in Tehran, Iran, the events that led to the takeover at the U.S. embassy in November 1979 are still very vivid for me.

"I'll never forget all Iranian students being gathered at a gym in Champaign to swear to the Bible that we are in the U.S. legally and with good intentions. This was certainly no Manzanar, but shocking nevertheless on many levels.

“Ever since that day, I was made aware of how quickly we Iranians can be targeted and subjected to questioning. The ceiling felt close and the air was thick. Was this state preferable to returning to Iran? Now so many decades later, I can see the close parallels between the two countries and the lack of civil liberty in different guises.

“Taking Alex Doty’s 'Introduction To Film Class' opened windows to me that represented possibilities beyond my immediate life experience. Aside from the content of the class, Alex was very inspiring, passionate and approachable. As we explored different genres of cinema, it felt as though he took the class on new adventures, and we came back from each journey with riches from faraway lands.

“His excitement for cinema was contagious and prompted me to apply to USC film school, which is where I got my master’s degree. I have been working in the animation industry since 1986 and I am certain that Alex Doty played a vital role in leading me to where I am today.”