31 January 2019
Iranian cinema’s prominence at international film festivals over the last three decades has raised interest and questions in equal measure. The success has been paradoxical on many levels, not least because the production of such a high volume of quality films has taken place under a strong ideological state that requires overcoming a myriad of religio-political restrictions.
The international renown and academic interest in festival films has come at the expense of research and viewing of the larger body of Iranian cinematic output from lesser known auteurs, as well as mainstream and diasporic varieties. In this issue, authors with wide-ranging interests – filmmakers, academics and critics – assess an assortment of Iranian filmmakers, cinematic genres and themes.
We begin this issue with Ranjita Ganesan’s exploration of the filmmaking career of Abdolhossein Sepanta, maker of the first Iranian ‘talkie’ – which was made in India – with Parsi filmmaker Ardeshir Irani. Ganesan describes the Zoroastrian connections and common cultural interests between early Iranian and Indian filmmaking traditions.
Saeed Talajooy provides an overview of the aesthetics and thematic inspirations that Persian literature provided for Iranian ‘new wave’ filmmakers before the 1979 Revolution.
Golbarg Rekabtalaei takes a new lens to the denigrated ‘Film Farsi’ – mainstream cinema before the Revolution – which, until recently, has attracted little academic interest. She shows how Film Farsi engaged with socio-cultural anxieties in urban life under the Pahlavis.
Roya Arab reviews the works of Parviz Sayyad and asks if the success of Samad, his iconic comic character, has overshadowed his extensive contribution to Iranian cinema as a writer, director, actor and producer.
Parviz Jahed explores the world of Persian Film Noir – specifically, the works of Masud Kimiai, the most prolific creator of the genre in Iran. He explores the recurring themes of criminality, violence and heroism in Kimiai’s homosocial films.
Kaveh Abbasian discusses the aesthetic aspirations of the so-called ‘Sacred Defence’ films, which have been a tool for propagating the Islamic Republic’s ideology since their inception.
Asal Bagheri examines Asghar Farhadi’s latest film Everybody Knows (2018) and highlights the filmmaker’s use of recurring themes and narrative techniques even beyond the borders of Iran.
Mirroring Ganesan’s focus on films made by Iranians abroad, Saeed Zeydabadi-Nejad brings the issue full circle by exploring recent trends among diasporic Iranian filmmakers of narratives set in fictionalised Iranian locations. He explores why and how homeland has been imagined in these films.
The issue is brought to a close with Taraneh Dadar’s review of the Karestan film project, which sheds light on a fascinating series of documentaries (an influential and understudied cinematic genre), two of which recently featured at a Centre for Iranian Studies event at SOAS.