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A Brief History of Iranian Cinema

The introduction of the first cinematography in Iran in 1900 by Mozaffaro Din Shah is considered the start of Iranian cinema although the first cinema halls were not built until 1912. By the year 1929, no Iranian film had been made, so the few established movie theatres showed foreign movies, sometimes with Farsi subtitles. The first Iranian feature movie, Abi and Rabi, was directed by Avans Ooganians and filmed by Khan Baba Mo’tazedi in 1929.

In 1932, Abdolhossein Sepanta in Bombay made the first Iranian no-silent named The Lor girl. The warm welcome given to this film in Iran encouraged the production of several other films. With the wind of change blowing In Iran’s political atmosphere from 1936 to 1948, and imposition of tough censorship on art and the breakout of the Second World War, Iran’s cinema stagnated. Although, it is to be noted that until then, Iran’s cinema was not so popular and the few cinemas in Tehran and other major cities just served the aristocracy and some particular classes of the society. Moreover, Iranian filmmakers had no clear line of thought. With the exception of Sepanta, who used the elements of Iran’s ancient literature in his works, other filmmakers  would mostly adopt foreign movies. 

After 1953, with the establishment of several movie production companies and the surging public acceptance of cinema, cinematic activities flourished. However, unfortunately, the focus on gaining profit from investment in cinema and the political situation of Iran’s post-coup d’etat society in which freedom, the main factor of cultural growth, was limited, the Iranian cinema mainly produced commonplace and cheap movies which became an integral ingredient of Iran’s filmmaking tradition in those days. In the following years, some filmmakers such as Samuel Khachikian, Hooshang Kavoosi, Parrokh Ghaffari, Ebrahim Golestan, Masuod Kimiai, Dariush Mehrjooie, Fereidoon Rahnama and Ali Hatami inspired a fresh cultural trend in Iran’s cinema which was somehow away from the common popular tradition .

The establishment of for the Intellectual Training of Children and Young Adults in 1969 was another positive development to shape Iran’s cultural cinema.The cooperation of UNESCO with the Center as the distributor of children’s movies in Iran left a significant impact on the uplifting of cultural and artistic standards of Iranian national cinema.

The cultural trend formed by the above-mentioned filmmakers, the establishment of the Center and the fading public interest in cheap entertainment elements such as violence, sex, and the roughneck, especially among the youth all joined hands to produce a new, constructive vogue in Iran’s cinema between 1971 to 1978.

 

Works by famed directors like Bahram Beyzaie, Abbas Kiarostami, Khosrow Sinaie, Kamran Shirdel, Dariush Mehrjoole, Naser Taghvaie, Ali Hatami, Amir Naderi, and some others played a major role in forming the new wave and prepared the grounds for Iran’s cinema to take more internationally-recognized steps in the following  years.

 

After the Revolution of 1979, amidst the normal disorganization created by such a great upheaval and the non-existence of clear-cut rules and regulation Iran’s cinema was in disarray. After 1983, when finally filmmaking rules were outlined according to the post-revolution values and norms, violence and sex were forced out of Iran’s cinema. Moreover due to the confiscation of many cinemas and film production companies and their control by the government, there was less concentration on profit making as before. These factors together with the increased skill of Iranian filmmakers, who developed in the 70’s like Kiarostami, Beyzaie, Mehrjooie, etc had a positive impact on Iran’s filmmaking industry. Despite the limitations, Iranian directors made some movies which won the admiration of critics around the world. In that period, young filmmakers such as Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Ebrahim Hatamikia, Ja’afar Panahi, Rakhshan Banietema'd, Majid Majidi, and Abolfazl Jalili who had entered cinema each with his own different orientation gradually gained enough experience and expertise to employ Various elements of cinema and have their share in its development.

Another factor which enhanced the interest of the Iranian youth in cinema and helped its growth was the annual holding of an international film festival in Bahman (January) known as the Fajr International  Film Festival.

The climax of Iranian cinema’s international successes was in 1997 when the Golden Palm of the International Cannes Film Festival went to Abbas Kiarostami for his renowned Taste of Cherry ( given jointly to Kiarostami and a Japanese director).  

 

The followings are other international successes of Iran’s cinema after the Revolution:

The Golden Leopard of Lucama Festival, Switzerland, 1997, to The Mirror by Ja’far Panahi

The Grand Prize for the Best Movie In the Three Continents’ Film Festival, Nantes, France, 1998 to A True Story by AboIfazl JaIiIi

The Golden Camera, Cannes Film Festival, France, 1995, to Ja’far Panah's The White Balloon

Roberto Rosselini Award, Cannes Festival, France, 1992 to Abbas Kiarostami for all his works

François Troufaut Award, Jiffoni Film Festival, Italy, 1992 to Abbas Kiarostami for all his works

The Grand Prize for the Best Movie, The Three Continents’ Film Festival, Nantes, France, 1989, to Water, Wind, Dust by Amir Naderi

The Grand Prize for the Best Movie, The Three Continents’ Film Festival, Nantes, France, 1985, to The Runner by Amir Naderi

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