Iranian cinema from 1930 to 1997
Let’s not be surprised anymore : Iranian cinema didn’t only resist the trouble caused by the Revolution that destroyed half of the 420 theaters of the coutry between 178 and 1979, but it enjoyed a new boom, too in terms of quantity as well as quality. Its participation in the most prestigious Film Festivals in the world in the last ten years is here to prove it.
From 1983, when Mohammed Khatami (Former President of Republic) took contol of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation for the following ten years, the State started a new public policy that consisted in supporting the cinema industry. Funds were then given to powerful production intitutions, such as « Farabi Foundation » and direct and indirect subsidies were created. This context helped a relatively large number of private producers to contribute to the development of the industry that had been stopped by the Revolution. Because foreign films were under control of the censorship and very rarely shown to the public, Iranian cinema was totally protected from the international competition, and became the only entertainment allowed to the audiance by the very austere Islamic Republic (In fact, VHS and satellite dishes, officially forbidden, broadcast programs from all over the world, but only in private homes). Iranian cinema has always suffered from a very strict censorship (since the early XXth century, when it stopped being one of the Shah’s privilidges, in order to become a mass-entertainment). But after the Revolution, the new régime established a system in order to control the public moral ad forced the cinema industry to stick to these « Islamic standarts ».
This censorship became the most restrictive « code » in the world regarding the appearance and behaviour of women (In a film, a woman must constantly be wearing a headscarf on , even if she is sleeping) and the representation of men/women relationships on the screen (They must not touch each other ; a mother is not allowed to hug her son as he is back from war). Although Khatami’s been trying to make the censorship more flexible, it keeps going on, being as hard with the the filmmakers, the scriptwriters, as with the actors whose private lives are supposed to be a model for the audiance. However, it is in this context that Iran keeps producing 60 to 80 full-length features a year, eventhough the state is slowing down its financial help and seems to be threatening the future of this national industry, the only one in the Middle-East.
The most surprising phenomena as we enter the XXIst century is the large number of different filmmakers and aesthetic options that Iranian Cinema keeps providing to the cinema industry.