Iran: A Cinematographic Revolution

Director: Nader Homayoun
Year: 2006
Rating: 7.0
Country: Iran

Knowing nothing really about Iranian Cinema other than the films of Jafar Panahi, I was able to find this documentary on its history up on YouTube. It breaks it down into pre and post Iranian Revolution eras. Much to my surprise, though I am not sure why, Iran has a cinema that stretches back to the 1920's and had a fairly sophisticated industry through the 40's to the 60's. In the 1970's like so many film industries around the world they turned to making genre based films full of action, violence, woman gone bad, dancing, drinking and all around fun. I wish I could watch a few of those just out of curiosity.

Then came the revolution in 1979 and the word went out that film was evil and sinful and over 120 theaters were burnt down by rabid crowds. Cinema died. For a while but then apparently Khomeini saw a film on TV titled The Cow that had been made in 1969 and it met with his moral standards and so he said films could be made again but they had to pass the morality test and a censorship board was set up. When Iran was invaded by Iraq in 1980 - a war that was to go on for 8 years and kill over 1 million people - filmmakers were encouraged to make propaganda films about the war and martyrdom.

By the end of the 80's Iranian directors were beginning to push the boundaries of what was allowable and many films were banned or forced to make radical changes. Some directors just stopped making films, others went almost underground to do so. Of course, these films could not be shown in cinema but they often found their way to international film festivals where they did very well. Lots of good film clips, interviews with directors and helpful in putting the Panahi films I have watched lately into context.

What I am still curious about and which the film doesn't answer is what films do currently get into theaters - what are people going to the movies to see - or does everyone stay home and watch illegal DVDs or illegal satellite TV? There must be lots of Iranian films that are not banned or artistic - comedies, soaps?

Iranian film posters mainly from the 1970's I think.