Women through the Eyes of Men in Iranian Cinema essay

It is known that men in the Iranian film industry had different relation to women. Some film directors criticized women, while others tried to support them in the field of post-revolutionary film industry. As a rule, men criticized women because of their religion ideology.  One of the well-known film critics, Gonul Donmez-Colin discusses the role of Iranian women as spectators, images and image constructors in the cinema of post-revolutionary period.  He states that the relationship of Islam in cinema is an ambivalent one (Donmez-Colin 7). For example, notable film director Mohsen Makhmalbah as a child, refused to communicate with his mother for several days when he found out that his mother had gone to the movies. However, in post-revolutionary period, men changed their relation to women in Iranian cinema.

It is not a secret that the role and representation of women in Iranian cinema is closely connected with social and political changes, in which religious traditions and customs are of great importance. According to Donmez-Colin, the Islamic revolution in Iran and the compulsory veiling of women pushed women into the shadow, but eventually stimulated a movement among women to go behind the camera to have their voices heard (7). Different film directors in Iranian film industry had different relation to representation of women in cinema. Jafar Panahi, one of the leading Iranian film directors, had positive relation to women in Iranian cinema. In his films, he tried to portray women’s position in the patriarchal system. For example, in the film The Circle, he depicts the fate of women in Iranian society. The film starts with the screams of a woman who gives birth in the maternity ward and ends in the prison maternity ward with the screams of a terrified woman who also gives birth. Jafar Panahi wanted to portray the fate of women who run around in circles (Donmez-Colin 157). Najmeh Khalili Mahani states that the growth of women’s participation in Iranian cinema can be measured not only in terms of the increased number of Iranian women behind and in front of the camera, but also in terms of the diversity of characters that populate the narrative, and in terms of the box office success of films that are centered around a lead female character (1). These facts prove that relation to women has been changed and many male filmmakers supported women in the field of film industry. These changes created positive environment for the successful work of women as film directors.

In addition, many male filmmakers of post-revolutionary period who had positive relation to women in Iranian cinema gave women the leading roles in their films. This fact is connected with certain changes in politics of the country. The end of the war in 1988, the death of by the end of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, and the start of the presidency of another political leader Ali-Akbar Hashemi all these changes had enormous impact on Iranian cinema (Mahani 1). The films Mother (1988) directed by Ali Hatami and The Travellers (1989) directed by Bahram Baizai assembled such female stars as Roghiyeh Chehre Azad and Nadereh and Farimah Farjami in the film Mother, and Mojdeh Shamsayi, Jamileh Sheikhi, Fatemeh Motamed Arya, Homa Rousta and Mahboobeh Bayat in the film The Travellers. The filmmakers had the major goal – to portray the classical role of the mother and wife in the Iranian society (Mahani 1).

Moreover, such film director as Abbas Kiarostami, whose films were of documentary quality, and who used children and men in the leading roles in most of his films, did not support women in Iranian cinema in the first years after the revolution. Only in 2002, he made a film Ten with a young woman in the leading role. Negar Mottahedeh states that most of Kiarostami’s works prove the fact that innovation in Iranian post-revolutionary cinema’s enunciation emerged not as a negation of the governmentally prescribed sexual taboos; rather than such innovation built formal structures that would not be possible without the restrictions placed on the industry (4).  Shahla Lahiji argues that the Iranian women have always been partners and collaborators of the Iranian men, and many male film directors used this concept in their works (1).

In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the representation of women in Iranian cinema was greatly influenced by the religious ideology and cultural attitudes in relation to women. The main peculiarity of the post-revolutionary Iranian cinema is a considerable increase in the representation of Iranian women on screens and the successful work of female film directors behind the camera. Many male film directors supported women in Iranian cinema and had positive relation to them because they offered them leading roles and portrayed women as self-confident and independent people.

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