The Iranian Film Culture

Throughout its existence, the Islamic government has shown a surprising degree of flexibility and a great capacity for learning from its own mistakes and since 1983 it has steadfastly sought to rationalize the film industry and to provide support and leadership for it. Filmmakers and audiences, too, have demonstrated both resolve and ingenuity in face of incredible constraints. In fact, it is through a process of cultural negotiation and haggling--not just through hailing--that a new cinema is emerging, which embodies much of the aforementioned Islamic values.

In post-revolutionary Iran a new crop of "Islamically committed" filmmakers has been gradually trained, at the same time that experienced "new wave" filmmakers of the shah's era have been resurrected and allowed to work. But neither of these two type of filmmakers has been forced into rigid positions. In the same way that pre-revolutionary filmmakers, such as Bahram Beyza'i, Daryush Mehrju'i, and Mas`ud Kimia'i, have adapted themselves to new post-revolutionary realities, the new generation of Islamist filmmakers, such as Mohsen Makhmalbaf, have also evolved and matured.

However, the post-revolutionary cinema is in a quandary. At the heart of the dilemma is the contradiction between the artists' fidelity to the state and their loyalty to the nation and to their own art. Iranian cinema has had to deal with many issues, among them: competition among various sectors in the industry, censorship, varied interpretations of regulations, aesthetic demands, chronic shortages of material and equipment, technical constraints and economic realities of producing films which are ideologically correct and yet attractive to mass audiences. The resonances set in motion by the intertextuality of these factors indicate that the development of an Islamized cinema in Iran cannot be considered as merely the result of the imposition of a "ruthlessly united" ideological apparatus controlled by the state but one that is open to considerable ideological work and negotiation.

Hamid Naficy
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