Iranian Cinema, From Past to Present

There is ample evidence to indicate that the origins of the crop of innovative and engrossing films produced in the post-revolutionary period in Iran can be directly traced to the cinematic achievements of Iran's pre-revolutionary film industry. It is true that a number of films, produced after the establishment of the Islamic republic in Iran, have been recognized in major international film festivals and acclaimed by European and American film critics in recent years. But, it is also true that a number of Iranian films and directors were also praised by nearly the same critics and in the same festivals. Indeed, some of the most prominent of Iran's contemporary filmmakers, such as Bahram Beyza'i, Abbas Kia Rostami and Daryush Mehrju'i, were trained--and produced some of their best works--in the pre-revolutionary era. Clearly, these favorable notices, at times overly flattering, about recent Iranian films have not been appreciated by some Iranians, particularly in the exile community. They claim that praising films produced in a country where every aspect of film production is under the total control of an intrusive regime, is no less than condoning the rigid and intolerable restrictions that have been imposed on artistic freedoms in general, and cinematic expressions in particular, in the Islamic republic of Iran.

One can not obviously deny the existence of pervasive censorship in Iran nor underestimate the frustration of independent directors and filmmakers who must constantly face a host of obstacles aimed at restricting their freedom of action and artistic expression. Nevertheless, conscious as one must be about these trying circumstances, the task of assessing the works of Iranian contemporary filmmakers, on their own merits, need not be neglected.

Farrokh Gaffari
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