(Tavoos Quarterly,Nos.5&6,Autumn2000-Winter 2001)
Contemporary Iranian cinema is a symbol of our civilization,culture and art; a vanguard of the dialogue among civilizations and an emblem of the creative Iranian mind. Few international festivals have been held without the participation of a film from this country. Iranian films have taken the top prizes of many festivals and thus presented Iranian beliefs, emotions and arts to the world. Film magazines throughout the world have devoted many pages to the introduction and analysis of Iranian films. Iran
is one of the few countries to produce national independent features in the era of Hollywood
’s undisputed dominance, and now competes with other Asian and European films in global markets. Our presence in this market may be a minor one, but with the flourishing of Iranian cinema, it shows signs of increase. On the other hand, the increasing number and growing variety of national productions have generated a great deal of enthusiasm within the country as well.
Introduction to an Analytical History of Iranian Cinema (1929-1978)
From Roots to Cliches
Based on the definitions and characteristics that “cinema” (with all its synonymous concepts) has taken on during its hundred-year history, Iranian cinema is not yet a hundred years old, despite the fact that we are celebrating its hundredth anniversary. The available historic documents and data show that the first cinematic feature produced in Iran is Abi and Rabi (1930), made by an Armenian filmmaker named Ovaness Oganians, although there is nothing left of this film except some faded photographs and a few lines in reports and articles about its screening in Tehran’s cinemas.1 The first Iranian film still in existence is Haji Aqa, the Cinema Actor (1933) also made by Ovaness Oganians. There is a complete copy of this film, as well as quite detailed comments about the conditions in which it was produced, reports on its early screenings and a few articles in the Tehran press of the time.2 The screening of this film by chance coincided with screening of Iran’s first talking feature The Lor Girl (1933) made by Ardeshir Irani and ‘Abdolhossein Sepanta. This film, which has always been labeled an Iranian film and is the result of Sepanta’s endeavors—he has the multiple function of screenwriter, actor and songwriter, and has even been occasionally credited as its director3—was produced at the Imperial Studios of Bombay and is in fact an Indian production.
Consequently, these two films must be recognized as the beginnings of Iranian cinema, yet both led to dead-ends and a complete standstill of the Iranian film industry. The failure of Haji Aqa, the Cinema Actor ended Oganians’ film career,4 and Sepanta, after making a few more films in India—based on ancient Iranian mythology5—was not able to continue, and the production of Iranian films in India also came to a stop.