Iran, another country in the bullseye of US imperialism, has probably one of the most humanist national cinemas in the world. Despite rabid US attempts by both capitalist parties to demonize the people of Iran, the country’s rich history of filmmaking, has provided a different picture, a country defending itself through many chaotic changes in power, brought on by outside interference.
Their national cinema follows the shape of change brought on by changing governments. The 1953 coup that overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Mosaddegh, brought in the dictatorship of the Shah with Western sponsorship. He survived a coup attempt in 1963 and led a ruthless regime until finally removed by the Iranian people in an uprising by secular intellectuals, clergy and leftists in 1979. The controls on filmmaking have changed over the decades, based on who’s ruling, and are analyzed in depth in a documentary featuring many of the major directors over the years. Iran: A Cinematographic Revolution (2007) is available to watch free on YouTube, and will give the viewer a better understanding of what makes Iranian cinema so unique. Many critics rate Iranian cinema as one of the most significant artistically, comparable to the classic Italian neorealism movement.
Typical of many Iranian dramas, the plot is basic and the characters are human beings who react to tragic events. Main themes are about children overcoming obstacles, true stories, lyrical, mystical drama, real-life problems, documentary footage, with little sex, violence or even swearing. The stories are often engrossing, humanist and respectful, much deeper that the simple plot outline would imply.
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The 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, in its abbreviated form online, featured two new films from the country that is famous at film festivals around the world. The debut feature film by Farnoosh Samadi, 180 Degree Rule, centers around a school teacher who plans to attend a family wedding outside of town. Her husband forbids her to go and the tragedy that occurs makes this movie as memorable as so many other great films from a country that has developed the art of cinema to such a high level.
Probably one of the more surreal looking films from the land of real stories, is a ‘too true to believe’ story of a couple young musicians traveling the countryside in their beat up van to perform at a concert in Tehran. This is a true story based on extreme flooding in large areas of the countryside. The couple seem intent on getting to their concert in Tehran on time, despite the massive flooding occurring all around them. Real footage is utilized from the tragic disaster areas with families and trucks stranded in the middle of large bodies of water. But the van plows through the flood as if it doesn’t exist. Bander Band is directed and fueled by a seemingly improvisatory acting style by the lead characters. The story is filmed around real people who are reacting to the flooding. The viewer is drawn into this dreamlike world where in one scene you see the van as if floating through water on an invisible road with no land in sight. The relationship between the two musicians and how they react to the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, could be a metaphor for what the country has gone through in the last few decades, with constant outside attempts to control the fate of the country.
Iran has paid the price for defying the US and Israel by countering their interference in the country, but they’ve miraculously continued to make some of the most beautiful films in the world, full of hope and love for humanity.