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