At a time when Hollywood films have driven many national cinemas 1)virtually out of business, Iran’s filmmakers have gone their own way. Turning their backs on special-effects-driven blockbusters, Iran’s filmmakers have captured the hearts of audiences around the world. Their films have won more awards at international festivals than any other nation.
Iranian directors are among the most creative in the world. They have to be, because they are challenged both by competition from abroad and strict regulations at home. Confronting these challenges, they’ve produced a national cinema of world 2)renown.
The Cinema of Children 童心院线
Iran is one of the most talked-about but least-known countries of Asia. Although located at the heart of Central Asia, its political isolation means that movies are sometimes the best window into this diverse country.
The capital, Tehran, is a city of 3)contradictions, where age-old traditions mix with the modern world. Iran is often portrayed as a country with violence 4)brewing just beneath its surface. And yet, ironically, its cinemas are filled with some of the most beautiful and 5)poignant films ever made – stories where the innocence of children often takes centre stage.
The popularity of Iranian films today is down to the generation of filmmakers who 6)came of age after the Iranian Revolution注1. Theirs was a radical departure from the song-and-dance and action films that were popular before then. The films focused on real characters and strong storylines that 7)struck a chord with the people.
Majid Majidi is part of this movement. Young fans queue for his films and for his 8)autograph. His Children of Heaven was the first Iranian film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Majidi’s greatest inspiration comes from the streets where he grew up.
Majidi: (Interpreted) My movies bring back 9)nostalgic memories of childhood, and the characters that I always loved. A director and his movies are inseparable. The movie can reflect a part of the director. The same goes for The Children of Heaven.
Hamid Naficy (Author): Majid Majidi’s film, The Children of Heaven, is about these two, brother and sister, who are so poor that they have to share a pair of shoes. It shows, you know, both the poverty and the realness of the poverty in Iran at the time.
Films featuring children were born out of necessity to tell stories in an environment governed by the Islamic Code. One particular institution has been 10)instrumental in promoting this style of storytelling. Kanoon, the Institute for Intellectual Development of Children, is a government institution that promotes creative education. Children of Heaven was made with its support. In fact, Kanoon produces and 11)sponsors many children’s movies and animations. About 15 of the movies made in Iran each year are either for or about children. Thanks to the Institute’s effort in developing children’s films, many famous directors got their start here.
Children have an important role in Iranian cinema. In many ways, they reflect the realities of 12)contemporary Iran. After the revolution, women were encouraged to have large families. Having six children was the 13)norm. As a result, today 50% of the population is under 20.
Naficy: The importance or the significance of these films is that these children are not…they are not just children, they are mini-adults, and they’re very forceful mini-adults. They’re not just ordinary people. They don’t take “no” for an answer.
New Voice from Women 新女性,新声音
Since the revolution, the role of women in Iranian films has changed. 14)Feminist filmmakers push the boundaries of Iranian cinema. Sometimes the consequences are severe. Films such as The Hidden Half 15)advocate Iranian women’s rights. It’s an 16)alternative portrayal of Iranian women rather than the idealized 17)stereotype the Islamic government prefers. In Milani’s film, a female college student is caught up in the events of the Islamic Revolution.
Naficy: She made quite a number of films, many of them 18)controversial because she has a feminist point of view. And her films are, you know, essentially about the women’s situation and their clash with 19)patriarchy.
Tahmineh Milani: (Interpreted) After the revolution, universities were closed for four years. Some students were 20)expelled, killed in prisons or sought 21)asylum abroad. No one talked about this period in our history. People were forbidden to talk about it for quite a long time. Neither stories were written nor films made about it. It was as if those four years didn’t exist. The Hidden Half was actually the first film that showed the tragic events that people experienced during those four years. This offended some people. The film was screened for about two to three weeks before they banned the screening of The Hidden Half and arrested and imprisoned me.
She was later sentenced to death. This 22)prompted appeals for her release both locally and abroad.
Naficy: The major campaign was launched in the US and elsewhere. Important 23)facets of the media in Chicago, in fact, started a campaign of directors from Martin Scorsese注2 to others
signing a 24)petition to free her from jail. Also at the time, I think President Hotami was in power, and he was 25)sympathetic as well. So, for a variety of reasons, she was let go.
The 26)outspoken director has not been silenced and continues to make films. Milani remains one of Iran’s most 27)prominent directors, focused on women’s rights in the country.
Milani: (Interpreted) If you really want my opinion about Iranian women, I think women in our society have a combative 28)mentality, enjoy challenge, and like to change their surrounding environment. And they have succeeded.
The Islamic Revolution resulted in a heightened creativity in the Iranian film industry. Today, Iranian films speak to larger audiences than ever before. Iranian directors, like their movies, now travel internationally, offering the world a rare glimpse of the everyday life of their people.
注2:马丁·斯科塞斯是与卢卡斯、斯皮尔伯格齐名的美国大导演,早期代表作包括《出租车司机》(Taxi Driver, 1976)和《愤怒的公牛》(Raging Bull, 1980)等。2007年,他凭着翻拍自港产片《无间道》的《无间行者》(The Departed,2006)获得奥斯卡最佳导演奖。