Foreign Policy Blogs

Iran’s Cinema: A Glimpse into a Fascinating Country

Iranian filmmakers- despite heavy restrictions – have over the years provided an intriguing and provocative look at Iran’s dynamic social, religious, and political culture. Reza Aslan explains in his article, Iran’s Cinematic Revolution, what sets Iranian cinema apart from others:

The irony is that part of what makes Iranian cinema so unique are the ingenious ways in which filmmakers have learned to sidestep the draconian censorship laws that, for example, forbid male and female characters from touching one another on screen. Such restrictions have forced Iranian directors to stretch their aesthetic powers in clever and creative ways, allowing them to develop a distinct and highly symbolic cinematic language that is instantly and universally recognizable as Iranian. Perhaps the most notorious aspect of this distinctly Iranian cinematic style is the use of visual poetry and metaphors to express views and emotions that would otherwise land the filmmaker in jail. Indeed, the use of metaphor has become so prevalent in Iranian cinema that plot is merely an afterthought, a fact that can sometimes confound Western audiences (and critics) who are used to the plot-driven, fast-paced action of an American movie.

This year’s Sundance Film Festival once again confirmed that Iranian films remain among the most celebrated in the world. The two Iranian films submitted this year in the festival were both by female filmmakers, and provided a sobering look at the struggles faced by Iranian women.

Kick in Iran is a documentary about Sara Khoshjamal-Fekri, the first female athlete from Iran to ever qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games. The movie follows this tae kwon do champion as she begins her arduous journey to Beijing in a society dominated by men.  Here is a trailer of this documentary:

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Women Without Men is based on a magic-realist novel written by Iranian author Shahrnush Parsipur. The movie interweaves the lives of three Iranian women from different social classes during the summer of 1953, a pivotal moment in Iranian history when a CIA sponsored coup toppled Iran’s first democratically elected government and reinstalled the Shah to power. The film chronicles each woman’s quest for change and their mysterious encounter in a magical orchard. Here is a trailer for this poignant film:

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Sahar Zubairy

Sahar Zubairy recently graduated from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas- Austin with Masters in Global Policy Studies. She graduated from Texas A&M University with Phi Beta Kappa honors in May 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. In Summer 2008, she was the Southwest Asia/Gulf Intern at the Henry L. Stimson Center, where she researched Iran and the Persian Gulf. She was also a member of a research team that helped develop a website investigating the possible effects of closure of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf by Iran.