Iranian Movies

Written by Serena Berger
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Many Iranian movies hold a venerable place in the history of cinema. Some are glorious works of art, some are instructional videos in language or dance, some are historical documentaries, while still others are simply charming family films. Following is some information that can get you started finding Iranian movies to serve your cultural, educational, or entertainment purposes.

The Difficulty of Acquiring Iranian Movies

In most cases, unless you are of Iranian descent and speak the language, you have not had the opportunity to hear about, much less view, many Iranian movies. Even if you are of Iranian heritage, living outside of Iran, you probably have a hard time finding all the movies you might like at local stores and malls. The last decade finds us fortunate because the Internet makes it possible for anyone, anywhere, to find information and ultimately purchase videos and DVDs that would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to acquire previously.

If you like foreign films, you have probably lamented their relative non-presence in American video superstores and local video stores. The demand is simply not high enough and there is not enough space for such stores to have an extensive selection in stock. When they do stock movies, they are likely to have won significant awards and/or have been shows at prestigious international film festivals.

While a few wonderful Iranian movies like Children of Heaven or Color of Paradise qualify as international sensations, by no means will you find a comprehensive selection of Iranian movies at any store-even a small store devoted to Iranian items. On the Internet, however, you can find any movie that has been released anywhere in the world. You can find out about writer/directors like Tamineh Milani and Moshen Makhmalbaf, or Rakhshan Bani Etemad and Babak Shokrian.

The Importance of Iranian Movies in America Today

There are times in our own history when it becomes especially important to learn about the history and culture of other nations. While that may be an enriching and pleasurable activity at any time, it is of particular benefit when wars and cultural clashes have a dark effect on our lives. The United States and Iran have had a particularly troubled relationship since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, in light of which it becomes all the more crucial to seek to understand the political conflict, as well as the daily lives of the people who have no desire to perpetuate violence, in their own country, or abroad.

Some Iranian movies deal specifically with subjects that relate to the wars that have devastated their country and affected ours. Before Khomeini's fundamentalist regime took over in a bloody revolution in 1979, the U.S had positive diplomatic relations with Iran under the liberally-minded Shah, Pahlavi. Khomeini sought to deny freedoms to the Iranian people, and initiated terrorist attacks and violated international codes and agreements in the name of his fanatical mysticism.

Khomeini's policies were the source of Iran's conflict with America (as well as most of the world), and ultimately the Iran Iraq war of the 1980s, which caused American deaths as well as devastation to the innocent people of Iran. Iranian movies dealing with this subject matter may be difficult to watch, but in classrooms around the country can help our young people understand the horrors of war, and the distinction between a fundamentalist regime and citizens who are just like us. They are destined to become classics, as documentaries, dramas, and cultural studies; and as tensions have exploded again in this decade, they are all the more important as tools to understand the country and the people.

Universal Themes in Iranian Movies

Other Iranian movies deal with universal themes such as families, relationships, romance, and childhood. We can also learn an important lesson from the very fact that these films could just as easily have been made by writers, actors, and directors from any part of the world--in art we see the best of humanity, and nation, race, and religion are all equal in artistic potential. Iranian comedies, music videos, thrillers, and family dramas are all available on the Internet in addition to the award-winning dramas and documentaries; and in their own way, they are just as important, whether your purpose is educational or for entertainment.

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