Festivals of Iranian films are held annually around the globe.
Many critics now rank Iran as the world’s most important national cinema artistically, with a significance that invites comparison to Italian Neorealism and similar movements in past decades.
Besides Cinema of Iran, Iranian or Persian cinema also includes cinema of Greater Iran such as Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
It may also refer to movies made in Persian language in other regions as Europe and United States or movies made by Iranians in languages other than Iranian ones.
There were many dramatic performance arts popular before the advent of cinema in Iran (Persia).
A few examples include:
Khaymeshab Bazi (Puppet shows)
Saye-bazi (Shadow plays)
Rouhozi (Comical acts)
Ta’zieh (A form of funeral-like show)
cinema was only five years old when it came to Persia at the beginning of the 20th century.
The first Persian filmmaker was Mirza Ebrahim Khan Akkas Bashi, the official photographer of Muzaffar al-Din Shah, the Shah (King) of Persia (1896-1907).
After a visit to Paris in July 1900, Akkas Bashi obtained a camera and filmed the Shah’s visit to Europe upon the Shah’s orders.
Contemporary Iranian Cinema
The international award winning Cinema of Iran is quite different from its domestically geared genre.
The latter caters to an entirely different audience, which is under the age of 25.
Iranian theater Khan Baba Motazedi founded the first cinema theater in Iran.
Later, in 1935, he directed movies such as Ferdowsi (the life story of the most celebrated epic poet of Iran), Shirin and Farhaad (An Iranian classic love story), and Black Eyes (the story of Nader Shah’s invasion to India).
In 1937, he also directed Laili and Majnoon, an eastern love story similar to the western story of Romeo and Juliet.
By establishing the first National Iranian Film Society in 1949 at the Iran Bastan Museum and organizing the first Film Week during which English films were exhibited, Ghaffari laid the foundation for alternative and non-commercial films in Iran.
In their work, they put emphasis on ethics and humanity.
Pre-revolution Persian cinema produced memorable movies such as:
The Bride of the Sea, the late Arman (1965)
Siavash at Persepolis, the late Ferreydun Rahnama (1967)
The Brick and The Mirror, Ebrahim Golestan (1967)
The House of God, Jalal Moghaddam (1966)
The Husband of Ahoo Khanom, Davood Mollapour (1968)
With the screening of the films Kaiser and The Cow produced by Masoud Kimiay and Darius Mehrjui in 1969, alternative films established their status in the Film industry.
Attempts to organize a film festival that had begun in 1954 within the framework of the Golrizan Festival, bore fruits with the Sepas Festival in 1969 and the endeavors of Ali Mortazavi which resulted in the formation of the Tehran World Festival in 1973.
Post-revolutionary Persian(Iranian) cinema has been praised in many international forums due to its distinct style, themes, authors, idea of nationhood, and manifestation of culture.
Many world class Iranian directors emerged during last few decades as Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi.
Abbas Kiarostami, one of the few great directors in the history of cinema, planted Iran firmly on the map of world cinema when he won the Palm d’Ore at the Cannes for his Film, A Taste of Cherry, in 1997.
Intellectual Cinema of Iran is enjoying more and more young talented directors.
The continuous presence of Iranian films in prestigious international festivals as Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, and Berlin Film Festival attracted world attention to Iranian masterpieces.
Iranian films have repeatedly been nominated or become the winners of prestigious prizes as Golden Lion of The Venice Film Festival, Palm d’Ore of Cannes Film Festival and Golden and Silver Bear of Berlin Film Festival.
In 2006, six Iranian films, with six different styles, represented Iranian cinema in Berlin Film Festival.
Critics considered this a remarkable event in the history of Iranian cinema.
An important step was taken in 1998 when the Iranian government started funding ethnic cinema.
Since then Iranian Kurdistan has seen the emergence of numerous filmmakers.
Iranian Kurdish Cinema
In 1999, The Wind Will Carry Us by Abbas Kiarostami was the first movie partly shot in the Kurdistan province.
It was presented at both Int. Venice Film Festival and Int. Cannes Film Festival.
Kurdish cinema came to international prominence in 2000, after the presence of two Kurdish movies simultaneously in the Cannes Film Festival; namely, The Blackboard (in Kurdish language) by Samira Makhmalbaf and A Time for Drunken Horses (in Kurdish/Persian language) by Bahman Ghobadi.
In 2002, Songs from my Motherland (aka Marooned in Iraq), another movie by Bahman Ghobadi in Kurdish/Persian language was presented at the Cannes festival.
The movie won many prizes in several other international festivals.
In 2005, Iranian director Jamil Rostami won Fajr Festival’s Simorgh for the best director in Asia and Middle East for his Kurdish language movie, Requiem of Snow.
In 2006, Ghobadi’s Half moon (in Kurdish/Persian) won Golden Sea shell at San Sebastian film festival.
The Film was shot inIranian Kurdistan and Iran’s renowed actrors Golshifteh Farahani, Hassan Poorshirazi and Hedyeh Tehrani (also executive and assistant director) acted in this movie.
The music of the movie was made by Iran’s world-class musician Hossein Alizadeh.
Iranian Intellectual Cinema
“The Last Supper” touches on traditional Iranian cinema taboos such as inter-generational marriage.Since the 1960s, a movement in Persian cinema started which created the so called New Wave. Directors like Forough Farrokhzad,
Sohrab Shahid Saless, Bahram Beizai, and Parviz Kimiavi were the pioneers of this movement. They made innovative art fiwhich had highly political and philosophical tones and poetic language. Since then it has become known as the New Iranian cinema to distinguish it from its earlier roots. The most notable figures of Iranian New wave are: Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi, Majid Majidi, Bahram Beizai, Darius Mehrjui, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Masoud Kimiay, Sohrab Shahid-Saless, Parviz Kimiavi, Samira Makhmalbaf, Amir Naderi, and Abolfazl Jalili.
The factors leading to the rise of the New Wave in Iran were, in part, due to internal conditions; that is due to intellectual or even political movements that came into existence at the time. A romantic climate was developing after the 19 August 1953 coup in the sphere of arts. Next to it, a socially committed literature took shape in the 1950’s and reached a peak in the 1960’s which may consider as the golden era of contemporary Persian literature.
Along with China, Iran has been lauded as one of the exporters of great cinema in the nineties. World-renowned German filmmaker Werner Herzog, along with many Film critics from around the world, has praised Iranian cinema as one of the world’s most important artistic cinemas.
cinema of Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi represent the so called New wave of Persian cinemaIn the artistic and esthetic realm, features of New wave of Persian cinema, for example the works of Abbas Kiarostami, can be classified as postmodern.
Despite some shared characteristics with European cinema (e.g. Italian Neo-realist cinema), no one can deny the existence of a specific Iranian cinematic language that champions the poetics of everyday life and of the ordinary person in a new style, blurring the boundaries between fiction and reality, feature and documentary. The new Iranian cinematic language and the unique approach have inspired European cinema directors to imitate the style. Michael Winterbottom’s award-winning “In This World” (2002) a noticeable homage to contemporary Iranian cinema. This new, humanistic aesthetic language, determined by the film-makers’ individual and national identity, rather than the forces of globalism, has a strong creative dialogue not only on homeground but with audiences around the world.
In his monumental book Close Up: Iranian cinema, Past, Present, Future (2001) Hamid Dabashi wrote the founding text on modern Iranian cinema and the phenomenon of [Iranian] national cinema as a form of cultural modernity – featured even in the Lonely Planet travel guide for Iran. According to Hamid Dabashi “the visual possibility of seeing the historical person (as opposed to the eternal Qur’anic man) on screen is arguably the single most important event allowing Iranians access to modernity.”
Iranian Popular Art-Cinema
Parallel to Persian neo-realist and minimalist art-cinema, there exist a so called popular art-cinema in Iran. Filmmakers who belong to this circle are interested in films which have broader range of audience than minimalist cinema which are mainly accessible to a narrow spectrum of highly educated people.
However such Filmmakers believe that their movies are also artistically sound.
Such type of films have emerged throughout history of Iranian cinema. Filmmakers like Nasser Taghvaee and Ali Hatami are best examples of this cinematic movement. In addition to popularity, their works have also been praised by critics due to their artistic style. Interestingly some of these Filmmakers also belong to the intellectual cinema (e.g. Mum’s guests by Darius Mehrjui).
In Persian poetry, Mehdi Akhavan-Sales has established a bridge between the Khorassani and Nima Schools. That is what Masoud Kimiay has done in Kaiser; i.e., he established a connection between intellectual and popular films.
Iranian Women’s Cinema
Niki Karimi, a multi-award winning actress and directorFollowing the rise of Iranian New wave, there are now record numbers of Film school graduates in Iran and each year more than 20 new directors make their debut films, many of them women. In the last two decades, there has been a higher percentage of women directors in Iran than in most countries in the West. The success and hard work of the pioneering Rakhshan Bani-Etemad is an example that many women directors in Iran were following much before Samira Makhmalbaf made the headlines. Internationally recognised figures in Persian women’s cinema are:
Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, writer and director is probably Iran’s best known and certainly most prolific female filmmaker. She’s established herself as the elder stateswoman of Iranian cinema with documentaries and films dealing with social pathology. Samira Makhmalbaf directed her first Film The Apple when she had only 17 years old and won Cannes Jury Prize in 2000 for her following film The Blackboard.
Besides women involved in screenwriting and filmmaking, there are numerous award winning Iranian actresses whose uniques styles and talents attracted critics.
The most notable Iranian actresses are:
Hedyeh Tehrani, Simorgh award for best actress six times from Fajr I. Film
Mary Apick, Best Actress Award from Moscow International Film Festival 1977.
Leila Hatami (Best actress award, Locarno International Film Festival and
Montreal World Film Festival(2002) )
Taraneh Allidousti (Best actress award, Locarno International Film Festival
Pegah Ahangarani (Best Actress Award, the 23rd Cairo International Film
Azita Hajian (Simorgh for the Best Actress, the 17th Fajr Int. Film Festival)
Shohreh Aghdashloo (First Iranian woman to be nominated for an Academy Award)
Ladan Mostofi, Best Actress Award at the third Eurasia International Film
Festival in 2006.
In 2006, Marjane Satrapi, become a member of the Cannes Film festival Jury. She is an Iranian contemporary graphic novelist, illustrator and author of the best selling “Perspolis”.
Iranian Comic Cinema
A factual analysis of Iranian Comedies
Iranian stand-up comedy
Iranian Animation Cinema
Iranian Azeri Cinema
In 2002, Iranian director, Mehdi Parizad, shot a documentary on Azeri filmmaking. On Jan 10th, 2005, The Azeri cinema event, Prospects of Azeri Cinema, opened at Tehran’s Contemporary Arts Museum.
Iranian War Cinema
War cinema in Iran was born simultaneously with the beginning of Iran-Iraq war. However it took many years until it found its way and identity by defining characterisof Iranian war cinema. Many renowed directors such as:
Ahmad Reza Darvish
Were involved in developing Iranian war cinema. History of Iranian war cinema
Iranian documentary films
Review on Starting of Iranian Documentary Films
Commercial Cinema in Iran
For many years the most visible face of Iranian commercial cinema was Mohammad Ali Fardin, who starred in a number of popularly successful films. However, in the more conservative social climate of Iran after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 he came to be considered an embarrassment to Iranian national identity and his films–which depicted romance, alcohol, scantily-clad women and a lifestyle now condemned by a nonsecular Islamic government–were banned. Although this would effectively prevent Fardin from making films for the remainder of his life, the ban did little to diminish his broad popularity with Iranian moviegoers. His funeral in Tehran was attended by 20,000 mourners.
Before Fardin, one could argue, Iran simply did not have a commercial cinema. The 1960s was a significant decade for Iranian cinema, with 25 commercial films produced annually on average throughout the early ‘60s, increasing to 65 by the end of the decade. The majority of production focused on melodrama and thrillers.
The commercial Iranian cinema genre is largely unknown in the West as the films are targeted at local audiences. There are two categories of this type of film.
The first is what many critics label as “propaganda” films. Many of these films relate to the victory of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the ensuing Iran–Iraq war, and are filled with strong religious motifs. The second category, loosely defined as the “unofficial Hollywood remake”, consists of movies that are highly formulaic, cast with popular actors and possess the typical elements of India’s popular cinema in their appeal (of course, with distinct differences). They tell stories of unrequited love where the hero and his love interest don’t so much kiss but walk off into the metaphorical sunset as the end-credits roll. The appeal of these films lies in their “western” attributes, which contributes significantly to the escapism they offer. Part of the appeal of these commercial “remakes” is in their “non-Iranian” identity.
The presence of Iranians in Hollywood commercial cinema is also very significant. Persian actress and artist, Nazanin Boniadi appeared in The Snitch and the feature film Gameface as well as Shohreh Aghdashloo in the House of Sand and Fog which portrayed the life of Iranian Americans and has been nominated for 3 Oscars and Bahar Soomekh in the award wining Crash. Controversial comedian Sacha Baron Cohen is of Jewish-Iranian descent.
Persian cinema in Iranian plateau
Persian cinema in Afghanistan
Cinema of Afghanistan is slowly rising after a long period of silence. Before September 11th attacks, Mohsen Makhmalbaf attracted world attention to Afghanistan by his celebrated movie, Kandahar. It was an attempt to tell the world about a forgotten country. The Film brought cinema of Afghanistan to Cannes film festival for the first time in history. Later on, Yassamin Maleknasr, Abolfazl Jalili, Samira Makhmalbaf, and Siddiq Barmak did significant contribution to Persian cinema in Afghanistan. Barmak’s first Persian Film Osama (2003) won several awards in Cannes and London film festivals. Siddiq Barmak is also director of the Afghan Children Education Movement (ACEM), an association that promotes literacy, culture and the arts, founded by Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
The school trains actors and directors for the emerging cinema of Afghanistan.
The situation of Afghan immigrants has been also addressed extensively by Iranian cinematographers. The first step in this field was taken by Mohsen Makhmalbaf in Bicycle ran in 1998. Other examples in this line are Jafar Panahi’s White Balloon in 1994, Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry in 1997, Majid Majidi’s Rain and Bahram Beizaei’s Killing Mad Dogs.
In 2000, Djomeh made by one of Abbas Kiarostami’s assistants, Hassan Yektapanah; the story focuses on the plight of one of the two million young Afghan refugees in Iran without legal status. When the non-professional Afghan actor, used in this Film, was invited to the Hamburg Film Festival, and then denied re-entry to Iran, his story became another Film, Heaven’s Path in 2002, by the architect-actor-film-maker Mahmoud Behraznia, who lives in Germany.
Persian cinema in Tajikistan
In Tajikistan, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the internationally known Iranian movie director, is playing the same role as he played in the reconstruction of the cinema of post-Taliban Afghanistan. 1st Didar Film Festival, the first Film festival in Tajikistan, was held in 2004. The festival and the House of cinema of Makhmalbaf (in Iran) allocated grants for the creation of short-feature Film by young and gifted film makers Mirzob Nugmanov, Aloviddin Abdullaev, Denis Mechetov, Shahruyor Nazari, and grant to Bakhtiyor Kakhorov for the creation of a cartoon.
In 2002, Jamshid Usmonov won FIPRESCI Prize at London film festival for his Persian language comedy, Angel on the Right.
In 2, Iran’s Film Week was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Several Iranian films including My Eyes for You, Last Supper, Bride, Avicenna, and Passion, went on screen at the Vatan Cinema in Dushanbe.
Tajikistan’s Filmmakers Guild which is an affiliate of Moscow Filmmakers Guild, in a ceremony on August 26, 2005 held in Dushanbe’s House of Cinema, presented the Guild’s honorary membership to Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Makhmalbaf made two of his 18 feature films in Tajikistan; “Silence” in Persian and “Sex and Philosophy” in Russian are the titles.
Iranian American Cinema
I Am A Sex Addict
Film Music in Iranian Cinema
Although Iranian composers usually have their own special style and music structure, they all share in one thing: melodic, lively rhythms. That mightbe because they often begin with folkloric songs and shift to Film music. In the past few decades, a few composers have emerged in the Iranian cinema with highly-appraised works. Composers like Morteza Hannaneh, Fariborz Lachini, Ahmad Pejman, Majid Entezami, Babak Bay, Naser Cheshmazar and Hossein Alizadeh were some of the most successful score composers for Iranian films in the past decades.
Jahangir Razmi, Pulitzer Prize winner.
International recognition of Iranian cinema
Here is a list of Grand prizes awarded to Iranian cinema by the most prestigious
First presence of Iranian cinema in Cannes dates back to 1992 when Life and
nothing more by Abbas Kiarostami represented Iran in the festival.
Golden Palm: Abbas Kiarostami (1997)
Grand Prize of the Jury: Not yet
Jury prize: Samira Makhmalbaf (2000 & 2003)
Golden Camera: Hassan Yektapanah (2000), Bahman Ghobadi (2000), Jafar Panahi (1995)
Golden Lion: Jafar Panahi (2000)
Silver Lion: several nominations
Grand Special Jury Prize: Abbas Kiarostami (1999)
Golden Bear: several nominations
Silver Bear: Jafar Panahi (2006), Parviz Kimiavi (1976), Sohrab Shahid Saless
The first film from Iranian cinema that won a prize in Locarno festival was khaneie doost kojast directed by Abbas Kiarostami (1989).
Golden Leopard: Saman Salvar (2006), Abbas Kiarostami (2005), Jafar Panahi
Silver Leopard: Hassan Yektapanah (2004), Abolfazl Jalili (1998)
Sutherland Trophy: Siddiq Barmak (2003), Samira Makhmalbaf (1998)
Golden Shell: Bahman Ghobadi (2004 & 2006)
Silver Shell: Niki Karimi (1993)
Grand Prize: Jafar Panahi (2001)
FIPRESCI prize: Rakhshan Bani-Etemad (1995 & 1998), Abbas Kiarostami (1999), Marzieh Meshkini (2000), Mohsen Makhmalbaf (2001), Jamshid Usmonov (2002), Atiq Rahimi & Kambuzia Partovi (2004), Ramin Bahrani(2005), Kambuzia Partovi (2006), Bahman Ghobadi (2000 & 2006).
Life long achievement awards
Abbas Kiarostami: Prix Roberto Rossellini, Cannes Festival (1992)
Abbas Kiarostami: François Troufaut Award (1992)
Abbas Kiarostami: Honorary doctorate, Ecole Normale Supérieure (2003)
Abbas Kiarostami: Prix Henri Langlois Prize (2006)
Mohsen Makhmalbaf: Parajanov Award for outstanding Artistic contribution to
the world cinema (2006)
Rakhshan Bani-Etemad: Prince Claus Awards (1998)
Ezatolah Entezami: UNESCO award (2006)
The Annual Academy Awards (Oscar)
1998: Zahra Dowlatabadi (Nomination)
1999: Majid Majidi (Nomination)
2004: Shohreh Aghdashloo (Nomination)
Iranian international film festivals
Film festivals have a rather long history in Iran which goes back to 1950s. The first Tehran International Film festivals opened in April 1973. Althouh the festival never reached the level of Cannes and Venice, however, it managed to become well known as a class A festival. It was a highly reputable festival and many well-known filmmakers took part in it with their films. Great filmmakers such as Francesco Rosi, Grigori Kozintsev, Alain Tanner, Pietro Germi, Nikita Mikhalkov, Krzysztof Zanussi, Martin Ritt won the festival’s awards.
Fajr Film Festival
See also main article: Fajr International Film Festival
The festival takes place since 1983. There was an elaborate attempt to hold the Fajr Film Festival as magnificent and spectacular as possible from its very onset. It had a background as powerful as that of the Tehran International Film Festival and wanted to remain on the same track. Although the Fajr Film Festival has not yet found the place it deserves among the class A film festivals, yet, it has been successful in making policies and setting examples for the future of Iranian cinema. In its early years it had a competition section for professional as well as amateur Film (8 mm, 16 mm). Since 1990 there has been an international along with the national competition. The festival also features a competition for advertisement items like posters, stills and trailers. In 2005 the festival added competitions for asian as well as spiritual films. The tope prize is called Crystal Simorgh.
Isfahan International Festival of Films for Children & Young Adults
The festival takes place since 1985. In its first three years it was part of the Fajr Film Festival. From 1988 to 1989 it was located in Tehran and in 1996 it was held in Kerman. The festival features international and national Film and video competitions. The top prize is called Golden Butterfly.
Iran Cinema Celebration Awards
On September 12, the national day of Iranian cinema, a celebration is held
annually by the House of Cinema. In the 2006 event, Akira Kurosawa was honored.
2006 Best film: Crossroad directed by Abolhassan Davudi.
2005 Best film: So Close, So Far directed and produced by Reza Mir-Karimi.
The Iranian Cinema
Iranian fimmakers and influence of Ancient Persian literature
Kiarostami Will Carry Us; The Iranian Master Gives Hope
BBC News. (2000). “Iranian ‘King of Hearts’ dies”. BBC News. Retrieved
November 8, 2006.
Film Festival Guide
Locarno festival ranked 4th after Cannes, Venice and Berlin
Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf among The world’s 40 best directors
Women of Iranian Popular Cinema