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Iranian Filmmakers Keep Focus on the Turmoil

January 5, 2010

Wonder about the power of the arts to influence culture? I suppose that, in media-saturated cultures like the U.S. and Europe, it’s hard to pinpoint influences of individual works of art. But here’s an article about the effects (or feared effects) of filmmakers in a closed society.

Iranian Filmmakers Keep Focus on the Turmoil – NYTimes.com.

A key quote:

‘During the reign of the Shah, “we went to see films not just to learn about national cinema but to look for hidden references to tyranny and domination,” said Hamid Dabashi, the Hagop Kevorkian professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature at Columbia University, who has written extensively about Iranian cinema. Professor Dabashi said that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was well aware of the influence of film in a nation where art and artists were esteemed in all corners of society.

“He remembers well how arts, literature and poetry were very much the modus operandi of the 1970s, which led to the revolution,” he said. “It has always had a tremendous influence and it has always been there.”’

Today, the current regime is doing everything it can to contain the ideas expressed in the arts. This has driven many filmmakers out of Iran.

The supreme leader held a meeting of film directors late last month, lecturing them on how film was not really art but was a tool of political propaganda. He said that the Oscars (like the Nobel Prizes) “do not have any value and artists should never work to make movies with the purpose of winning such prizes.”

Are we just about reaching for prizes, for box-office returns, or are we making our art to influence our culture in revolutionary ways?
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