He was right.
After seeing some of the films, "for three months they didn't give me any work to do," Shirdel said of his supervisors. Driven mad with frustration, Shirdel told a powerful administrator he'd seen the light.
"I said I know I've been wrong, making all these films. I convinced him that I'm ashamed of what I've done," and that the next film would give authorities what they want.
Shirdel was told to make a film about a boy who had supposedly saved lives by preventing a terrible train accident. But when he travelled to the town nobody wanted to be interviewed. The film essentially documented that the entire story was a feel-good fraud, designed to present a heroic story even if there had been no real heroism.
Shirdel finished the film — called "The Night it Rained" — and a culture ministry official came to see it.
"That was a tragedy. I was laughing of course," Shirdel recalled. "He said, 'This is the epic that you wanted to bring?' And I said this is the epic I saw. This is the real epic."
"I was expelled from the ministry," Shirdel said. "That was 1967. So I came out, and I never looked back."
"The Night it Rained" was banned, briefly shown in 1974, then banned again, and Shirdel feared that much of his early work had been destroyed. But a year or two after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, he got a call from one of his students, who had been given a job at the same Ministry of Culture.
"He was crying. He said, 'We found your films,'" Shirdel said, noting that at first he got angry, suspecting a cruel hoax.
But it was true. Several films — and the unfinished footage of the prostitutes — had been stored, and in coming years they were shown to the public for the first time.