Women in Post-Revolutionary Iranian Cinema essay

It is known that women in Iranian society have always been limited in their rights. Before the Revolution of 1979, in many films in Iranian cinema, women were treated as “worthless and negligible” figures, and the directors seldom paid attention to their values and humanitarian qualities (Mottahedeh 4).  Mariam Bassiri states in her article Women in the Iranian Cinema that “in these series of films a woman was a puppet in the hand of the film-maker” (1). However, after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Iranian cinema was revolutionized. It is found that the general nature of the majority of Iranian films and the role of women in these films were changed in a positive manner. Although during the first few post-revolutionary years due to the war with Iraq, Iranian cinema was stagnant for some time.

However, in post-revolutionary Iran cinema flourished and the role of women was changed. They played major roles “both behind and in front of the camera” (Naficy 131). Film-making was improved. It is found that in the post-revolutionary Iranian cinema, more and more women directors of feature films were involved in film-making. According to Hamid Naficy, “this achievement was made possible partly by the incorporation of a complex system of modesty at all levels of the motion picture industry and in the cinematic texts”(131). The major goal of the system of modesty was to avoid the direct link between women’s representation and the promotion of amorality, corruption and pornography in the cinema. In addition, it is known that there were certain restrictions placed on women in post-revolutionary cinema which included domestic environment, minor parts, observance of the codes of modesty. These restrictions prevented women to be regarded as sexual fetishes and created representation of women in cinema as chaste and modest women (Mahani 1). However, it is possible to say that such restrictions proved the dominant role of men in relationships between men and women. As the government and the representatives of religious organizations in Iran controlled the images that were shown publicly, it was difficult to completely change the position of women in post-revolutionary cinema. Many religious organizations did not support the activity of women. They “condemned cinema form the start as morally offensive and ethically corruptive” (Tapper 4).

In addition, Hamid Naficy states that film industry in Iran was open to women, but, women had to abide by the “specific and biding ”˜Islamic codes’ of modesty” involving behaving, dressing, looking, acting, and filming.  Hamid Naficy divides post-revolutionary period in Iranian cinema into three stages, during which there were certain changes in evolution of the codes of modesty: “absence, pale presence, and powerful presence of women” (132). The first stage includes the first years after the revolution (early 1980s). During that period the images of unveiled Iranian women were cut from the films. During the second stage (mid-1980s), women were represented in films as ghostly presences in the background or in the domestic environment. The main features of this stage include averted look of women, no body contact between women and men, long dresses, inactive roles, etc. Besides, “both men and women were desexualized, and love and the physical expression of love were absent” (Naficy 133). In the third stage (late 1980s), women appeared on the screen more often and in leading roles.

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