The Iranian Cinema in France

The French, in their customary zeal for exploring and recognizing the unique cinematic achievements in non-European societies, have come to embrace--perhaps more enthusiastically than other westerners--some of the recent works of Iranian filmmakers. Thus, a number of films directed by Abbas Kia Rostami, Bahram Beyza'i, Ja`far Panahi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf have been among the most acclaimed foreign films in France in recent years. Part of the reason for this attraction may perhaps lie in the crisis of identity in the post-industrial European societies. Separated from his traditional religious, ideological and philosophical moorings and overwhelmed by violent and aggressive images in the Western media, the average western viewer could not but be pleasantly surprised by the beguiling simplicity and soothing serenity of these Iranian films.

In reviewing the reasons for the relative popularity of contemporary Iranian cinema in France, one should not overlook the impact of economic and financial factors. A number of French film companies, searching for lucrative deals and supported by government subsidies at home, have in recent years been involved in various phases of film production and distribution in Iran.

The question, however, remains whether to distinguish between the cinema that the regime of the Islamic republic is eager to export and those exceptional films that have, for various reasons, attracted the favorable attention of both the critic and average viewer in France. The answer may lie in the comment of a well-known French film critic who believes that the Iranian cinema must be judged not by the ideological films produced in Iran but by those that, having delicately defied the established norms, represent a unique cinematic expression.

Mojdeh Famili
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