Essay on Iranian Cinema after the 1979 Revolution

Not only national cinema was deprived of certain topics and instruments, but the American films were banned too. The national audience of Iran was limited to domestically produced movies, and it gave advantage to the local producers because the demand for their works was high because of deficit of quality product. Even when some Western films were shown in the movies, they were shown in heavily censored versions, and it also gave a stimulus for the black market development. Of course, many films could never be watched officially, but a lot of people found access to illegal DVDs or used banned satellite television equipment.

In the meantime, since 1982 the films have started to be financed by the Fajr Film Festival which was created in order to give a new life to disorganized cinema of the country. It goes without saying that financial aid was a benefit for filmmakers, and this encouragement gave birth to a new generation of filmmakers, including female directors too. This was a gulp of fresh air in the national cinema because new themes appeared there, including the problems of childhood, lyrical and mystical drama, and so on.

Moreover, some films could not pass the national censorship and were banned for broadcasting within Iran, but were permitted for export and for being shown at international film festivals (May Lady by Rakshan Bani-Etemad, for example).

In 1997 a new president was elected in Iran, and some restrictions were abandoned. The conditions became more liberal under Mohammed Khatemi and some relative freedom was finally achieved by filmmakers. In 1998 the government started to provide financial support to the ethnic cinema, and it is considered an important step as it presented a momentum for the rise of such talents as Bahman Ghobadi and his family.

As it has been already mentioned above, Iranian cinema has been celebrated for its authentic style and depth of coverage. But there were also some groups of films that could be barely understood globally. There were, for instance, films specifically produced for local young people under 25, and this films mostly covered the topics of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, its spirit and power of victory. It was a part of civil education of the local youth. Religious and national motifs were an important component of such works as well. On the other hand, these were also the films of formulaic character where the popular actors were starred. Among the post-revolutionary films that “gained the highest box office records”¯ were family comedies and melodramas like The Lizard, Outsiders, Aquarium, Ceasefire, M Like Mother, Glass Agency, Charlatan and Killing Mad Dogs (Mottahedeh 137).

Despite all the restrictions post-revolutionary Iranian cinema met success not only among the local population, but it was also regularly celebrated at various international festivals and forums. The theme of nationhood became very strong in the works of Iranian directors of new generations. Khosrow Sinai, Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi were among those who were plentifully praised by critics and regarded as great directors in the world history of cinema. Their success has been marked by different prestigious rewards (such as the statues at the Venice Film Festival or Berlin Film Festival). Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry, for example, won the Palme d’Or in Cannes. Besides, as Kristin Thompson (109) notes, “In 2006, six Iranian films, with six different styles, represented Iranian cinema at the Berlin Film Festival, and critics considered this a remarkable event in the history of Iranian cinema.”¯ Censorship was inconsistent, but it never interfered with true genius to find a proper tool to treat it effectively. And although the Revolution brought a lot of new challenges for cinema-makers, it went developing and since 1990s it has won respectful comparison with the Italian neorealism and other bright movements of that kind that emerged through the last decades.

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