Revolutionary Iranian Cinema

                           A revolution is not always done with weapons. Sometimes it is executed in a subtle manner, through cultural expression. Movies like, "A Children of Heaven" makes us think, why can't they  make films like this in India. But what makes them to give, simple yet touching movies. Recently, "A Separation", won the Oscar for 'Best foreign language film', where tensions are escalating, between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear ambitions. A war would definitely break a culture and its people. But , a movies like the ones i mentioned, could break any cultural barriers. 

                        Iranian officials , always want the film community to be an extension of the propaganda arm of government, instead of a reflection of the soul of their society. Ministry of culture, a government entity, must approve the film scrips before the shooting. It is a long process , which often block or ban many film-makers. In 2010, Iranian authorities arrested prominent filmmaker Jafar Panahi (White Balloon, Offside) on charges of "propagating against the Islamic Republic of Iran." An Iranian court sentenced Panahi to six years in prison and a twenty-year ban on filmmaking. 

                         The authorities also arrested five documentary film-makers, on accusations of collaborating with the BBC television network. We are living in  a era, where it seems difficult for film-makers to tell a original story, without any inspiration or plagiarism. But directors like Jafar Panahi risk their lives and use the medium of cinema, to say anything at all. After he was banned, he made a documentary, This Is Not a Film, depicting a day in his life, and tried to portray the deprivations looming in contemporary Iranian cinema. The documentary was partially shot in an iPhone and smuggled into France in a cake for a last-minute submission to Cannes film festival. 

                         In 1996, Samira finished her high school, and wished to join in a film school. But, Iranian universities didn't offer any kind of film studies. Her father Mohsen Makhmalbaf is a director, who made 28 films, asked the permission to start a film school on his own. The government authorities rejected his plea, and said that is against their policy. So, he gathered his own children and his friends children, to start a film school in his house. Hana, daughter of Mohsen studied in this school, and directed a short film, when she was eight.

                       This is not just a film-school, students are also taught, swimming, sports, cycling, driving, cooking, and also given computer knowledge. Apart from that, they learn basic requirements of a director and writer, like photography, script writing, editing, cinematic history, and sound editing. The school lasted 8 hours a day, which sometimes extended to as long as 16 hours. Currently, the course taught over a four year period, like engineering colleges. Students are also encouraged, to take independent films, in their final year. 

                    Summer classes are conducted for kids, to learn about cinema. Many critics and acclaimed directors are now working as lecturers, in this film school. A generation of Iranian directors and writers had studied in this school. The Makhmalbaf family members have won more than 120 international awards. 

                                                           Mohsen Makhmalbaf
                In talking about Iranian cinema and its impact, i do not pretend to be a expert in Iranian culture or cinema, but merely to recognize the notable increase of interesting Iranian films , which speak to the whole world. I might have also left out, various great directors of Iran. Asghar Farhadi, film-maker of A Separation, after accepting the Best Foreign Language Film award gave this best speech:

“At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or filmmaker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation, and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country Iran is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.”

                  American politicians may not trust Iranian politicians for different reasons, but  bombs will not differentiate between the government and the people. In 2006, Anthony Kaufman, a freelance journalist, wrote a article titled "How Can We Attack a Country With Such a Great Cinema?" That, still remains as a haunting question.


Elixir of life (dr_nidhi) said...

I am glad that you wrote about Iranian cinema. In a world focusing primarily on Iran for it's clandestine nuclear program... my little brush with Iranian cinema had left me mesmerized and Majid Majidi gave me a new perspective to life and his country... In fact "Baran" was such an amazing love story that I was awestruck ...It's a pity that such talented film makers are harassed and hushed for expressing their thoughts through cinema...

I lament the lack of good film makers in Indian cinema which is loaded with plagiarism and lack of originality...but once in a while the good ones to emerge and strengthen my faith in this powerful social medium called cinema...

loved reading this post :)

Arun Kumar said...

@elixir of life, thanks for your elaborate comment. If Iranians, could make touching movies, on their people's simple lives, why can't we do that? A country with a diverse and rich cultural background.

chitra said...

this is the truth...on real and reel life...!!

Varnita Bose said...

Thanks for sharing and spreading awareness. Loved reading your post!

Arun Kumar said...

@Varnita Bose, Thanks for your comment.