Acquaintance with cinema and the first steps of filming and filmmaking in Iran
1277 to ca. 1285 AS / 1899 to ca. 1907 AD
to Farrokh Gaffari and Jamal Omid
(Tavoos Quarterly,Nos.5&6,Autumn2000-Winter 2001)
The initial version of this article, written on the occasion of the commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of Iranian cinema, was distributed during the opening ceremony of the exhibition Antecedents and Beginnings of Iranian Cinema, held on the evening of September 17th 2000 in the Chadorkhaneh of the Golestan Palace. It was published as a batch of pamphlets that was soon expired, making a reprint necessary. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I began preparing a refreshed version in which typographic mistakes and some errors in the orientation of some illustrations were corrected, and I also added newly discovered facts. The partial identification of the first Iranian film, shot a hundred years ago by Ebrahim ‘Akkas-bashi at the Battle of Flowers in Ostend, is the most notable among these discoveries and it is introduced here together with a new documented description and history of the first filmed scene, shot in the same Belgian port. As all the films of the Qajar period identified to the present (late autumn 1379 / 2000) at the Golestan Palace are now being copied and studied, our knowledge of this cinema has greatly progressed and it is repeatedly undergoing change. I hope that the future versions of this text will keep the amateurs of history and cinema informed of any other changes brought about by new discoveries.
1277 AS / 1899 AD is the year in which Mozaffar-ed-Din Shah first issues an order concerning the acquisition of a cinema camera and projector, and 1285 AS / 1907 AD is that of his death. Thereafter, in the turbulent Constitutional Period and after it, several changes, including a growing number of theaters and cinema halls, occur in the evolution of Iranian cinema a thorough study of which requires a different entry.
Iranian cinema turned one hundred and Iranian photography reached the age of 158. No one remembered to celebrate the 150th anniversary of photography, but fortunately the centenary of Iranian cinema is being commemorated by the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization and the Golestan Palace—custodian of the treasury of early Iranian films—, alongside the Museum of Cinema, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and other organizations and cinema lovers A multitude of cinema lovers contributed to the realization of this commemoration, but the following institutions and organizations must at least be mentioned by name; the cinema affairs and the artistic affairs vice-directorates of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Farabi Cinema Foundation, the Iranian National Film House, the Cinema House, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, the social vice-directorate of the Municipality of Tehran, the Surah Cinema Development Foundation, Visual Media Co.