Thirty Years On: The Social and Cultural Impacts of the Iranian Revolution Conference, SOAS

  • Maryam Ghorbankarimi (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPresentation


The Women in Frame: Representation of Women in Post-Revolutionary Iranian Cinema

“The rise of the Islamic movement in the 1970s in Iran signified the emergence of a new political sociability and the dominance of a new discourse, within which woman-as-culture occupied a central position.” Afsaneh Najmabadi, “(Un)Veiling Feminism”
A parallel shift can be observed with the increasing number of women participating in society’s public spheres and the change in the representation of women on screen in the years following the Islamic Revolution. Women played a very significant role during the Islamic Revolution, which caused the news agencies, observers, and analysts to call it “the revolution of the chador-clad.” This sudden public exposure during the revolution was perhaps one of the reasons for what Afsaneh Najmabadi explains as the unbelievable flourishing of women’s intellectual and cultural production. Despite legal and social restrictions and the fact that many seculars and feminists still feel silenced by the dominant cultural and political climate, women have never left the public scene.
After the Iranian revolution, many predicted that the film industry would die. On the contrary, however, cinema was revived, as it was considered an educational tool. But the transition from before the revolution to after was not an easy one, as the film industry had to be stripped of everything considered to be against the Islamic ideology. As Hamid Naficy discusses, in the early years after the revolution “the incorporation of modesty at all levels of motion picture industry and in the cinematic text” helped to cleanse the film industry of any connotations of amorality, corruption, and pornography that were associated with Pahlavi’s In addition to the rebirth of cinema in the early 1980s, the number of women involved in the film industry in such roles as writers and directors significantly increased. After the revolution, the film industry lost its exclusiveness for some time and was opened up to the fresh and educated filmmakers who were ready to enter the film industry.
In the films made since the end of 1980s, female characters were for the first time given pivotal presence, no longer only fitting in one of two categories, as Shahla Lahiji explains — the chaste or the unchaste dolls. Whether this shift is due to the increasing number of female directors in particular or to the involvement of women in the social arenas in general, this paper will look at examples which convey this evolution in Iranian cinema, and will demonstrate how filmmakers have used what Susan Siavoshi calls “factionalism” of the Islamic Republic, which “provided an opportunity for intellectuals to engage the state in a process of negotiation and protest, cooperation and defiance, in pushing the boundaries of permitted self-expression.” For the purpose of this paper, some of Tahmineh Milani’s works, one of the most outspoken Iranian directors, along with some of Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s films and some more recent films on the subject of women will be looked at.
Period4 Jun 2009
Event titleThirty Years On: The Social and Cultural Impacts of the Iranian Revolution Conference, SOAS
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map