Whom does Iranian Cinema Speak to? Double Life of a Poetic Cinema

By Proshot Kalami.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Within the past few decades Iranian cinema has gained considerable visibility in the West. However, this notion of “visibility” comes as an accented view of an Eastern culture serving up to the Western eye what the latter wants to see. Consequently, directors like Abbas Kiarostami, Majid Majidi, Bahman Ghobadi, and Jafar Panahi, all by and large illustrate this thematic leaning in their films, using non-actors and following the lives of innocent, often poverty-stricken, children who are victimized by the oppressive social situation. These films are often simple, with little technological flourish, lyrical and poetic, realistic and documentary-like in cinematography and editing, all of which make them box office hits around the world.

While acknowledging their success among Western audiences and artistic merit in representing the brutal reality of life in Iran, I would like to question if they are on a race with themselves to tell more and more appalling tales with each new film, as if the more unbearable the pain, the better the chances of success in the international film circuit; hence better luck in finding well-established foreign-funders. The cost price of “human suffering” in this context is clearly much cheaper than the selling price and the profit is hefty. However, these films are seldom released, therefore hardly viewed in Iran. In fact, one cannot find a single review of these films in the otherwise prolific cinema-literature within Iran. It is the silence about and domestic proscription of these films that is more telling than the international recognition they are receiving ubiquitously in the West.

My essay, through engagement with Postcolonial Studies and recent critical discourse on globalization, investigates Iran’s domestic silence versus the international dialogue on these controversial, yet artistically accomplished, films and filmmakers.

Keywords: Film, Globalisation

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 9, pp.37-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 731.499KB).

Dr. Proshot Kalami

Lecturer, Department of English and Drama, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

After receiving my BA (1992) and MA (1994) in English in Iran I worked as a writer and director of radio plays at IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) while teaching as an adjunct lecturer at a number of colleges in Tehran. In 1998 I won the Best People’s Choice Award in pastel painting from Davis Art Center in California. Later I joined University of California, Davis, from where I received my PhD in Comparative Literature and Cinema in 2007. My dissertation is currently being turned into a book manuscript: Untold Iranian Epic, Cinematic story of a Nation to be published before the end of 2008. I have taught in three campuses of the University of California: Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Davis before moving to the UK to teach in the Department of English and Drama at Loughborough University. At the moment I am also in the process of making a documentary on Man of the Heart, a inter-cultural/multinational performance on a 19th century Sufi Saint-Composer from Bengal. Also as a professional videographer of live performances I have worked with Asia Society in the US, recording performance at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), Cal Performances at UC Berkeley, Mondavi Center at UC Davis, and Chorus Repertory Theatre in Manipur, India, as well as with Nalanda LLC at Berkeley and Calcutta.

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