Sunday, August 31, 2014

Women and Cinema in Iran

I'm currently putting together a zine entitled An Introduction to Iranian Cinema, which will be released at BOOKMACHINE books + zines on Friday, September 5th during the Downtown Fullerton Art Walk.  There will be a corresponding art show and screenings of excerpts from films we've watched. Here's an excerpt...

Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, things became difficult for women.  Despite harsh social restrictions, some of the most exciting and radical films in the world have been made by Iranian women after the Revolution.  Here are some notable female figures of Iranian cinema...

Pouran Derakshandeh (born 1951) began as a documentary filmmaker with “Plague” about disease in the Kurdistan Province. In 1978 she directed a documentary trilogy about handicrafts in Kurdistan.  Her 17-part documentary “Shokaran” focused on drug addiction, smuggling, and means of preventing drug abuse. Her feature motion pictures include Relationship (1986), A Little Bird of Happiness (1987), Passing Through the Dust (1988), Lost Time (1989), A Love Without Frontier (1998), Candle in the Wind (2003), Wet Dream (2005), Eternal Children (2006), and Hush! Girls Don't Scream (2013).

Pouran Derakshandeh

Rakshan Bani-Etemad (born 1954) is widely considered Iran's premier female director.  She earned critical and popular success in 1991 with her film Nargess.  Since then, she has received numerous awards for such films as The Blue-Veiled (1995), Under the Skin of the City (2001), and Our Times (2002), which made her the first female filmmaker to explicitly confront the Iran-Iraq war. Bani-E'temad’s socially and politically conscious films often focus on issues of poverty, criminality, divorce, polygamy, social norms, cultural taboos, women’s oppression, and cultural expectations.  Like other Iranian filmmakers,  Bani-E'temad often combines fiction and documentary elements in her films. In order to achieve authenticity and reflect reality, Bani-E'temad personally spends time living in the conditions of people she is reflecting in her own characters.  Her subtle and honest films offer an analysis of the current cultural pressures shaping Iranian women's lives.  

Rakshan Bani-Etemad

Tahmineh Milani (born 1960) is a feminist filmmaker known for touching controversial and sensitive issues like women’s rights and the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  The majority of Milani's films involve brave women who suffer under oppressive regimes. Her early films resembled fables, such as The Legend of a Sigh (1990) which featured a character who, after failing as an author, befriends her sigh of despair. The sigh goes on to teach her of women with much larger problems in the world, yet still remain happy. In What Did You Do Again? (1992), Milani told the story of a young girl with the power to change her family simply by talking to herself. Iranian censors fought against the film, instructing her to replace the female lead with a young boy instead. The government charged Milani as an anti-revolutionary due to the storyline of her 2001 film The Hidden Half.  She was imprisoned in 2001.  Following a backlash from many world-famous directors including Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, the government released her after two weeks, but official charges were never dropped.  Other notable films by Milani include Unwanted Woman (2005), The Fifth Reaction (2003), and One of Our Two (2011).  

Tamineh Milani

Leila Hatami (born 1972) is an actress and the daughter of director Ali Hatami.  She made her professional entry into cinema with Dariush Mehrkui’s film Leila (1996). Her acting in this film received rave reviews from critics and audiences.  Her role in The Deserted Station (2002) won the best actress award from the Montreal World Film Festival. She has appeared in her husband Ali Mosaffa’s films Portrait of a Lady Far Away (2005) and The Last Step (2012).  In 2012 she played the leading role in Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, which won the Academy Award for best foreign film.

Leila Hatami

Samira Makhmalbaf (born 1980) is the daughter of director Moshen Makmalbaf.  She left high school when she was 14 to study cinema in the Makhmalbaf Film House for five years. At the age of 17, after directing two video productions, she went on to direct the movie The Apple (1998), which won the Sutherland Trophy at the London Film Festival.  She was nominated for the Palm d’Or at Cannes for Blackboards (2001), which follows teachers among rural Kurdish tribes. In an interview with BBC she said this about the difficulties that women directors face in Iran: “Traditionally, it is in the minds of everybody that a woman cannot be a film maker. It is therefore very much harder for a woman. Also, when you live in this kind of situation there is a danger that you can start to develop a similar mind-set and so the thing is to challenge this situation, and then slowly the situation will change also in the minds of others. I very much hope that in the advent of freedom and democracy Iran can produce many more women directors."

Samira Makmalbaf


Hana Makmalbaf (born 1988) is the younger sister of filmmaker Samira Makmalbaf and daughter of filmmakers Moshen Makmalbaf and Marzieh Makmalbaf.  Her first short film was shown at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland when she was eight years old. Her first full film was Joy of Madness (2003), a documentary about the making of Samira's At Five in the Afternoon, which she made when she was 14.  Her first feature film, Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame (2007) won numerous international awards.  Her second feature, Green Days premiered at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival. Begun as a documentary about the run-up to the 2009 Presidential Election in Iran, it was completed by inter-cutting scenes of the post-election violence garnered from cell-phone and other amateur videos circulating anonymously.

Hana Makmalbaf

Check out the Facebook event page for this zine release/art show/screening event HERE.

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