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Persian movies have helped reflect the situation in Iran. The political climate has played a central role in the movies. During the old days, freedom was curtailed in Iraq with several movies banned or censored. This is not strange in the Islamic countries where cultural fundamentalism is entrenched in the society. Moreover, western ideologies are subject to criticism.
Through religious bodies, movies were opposed as they revealed the nature of the political, social, and economic situation in Iran. Successive regimes have been suppressing human rights in the name of national security and the Sharia law.
The influence of the regimes and the religious bodies exists today as famous movies have failed to depict the real situation in the country. Directors, opposing the standards set by the regimes, have been jailed, or their movies censored. This paper will explain how Persian movies reflect the issues in the society.
The Persian culture has been depicted in many movies. Most of these movies have enjoyed success despite the censorship that exists in the country. Films that succeed in the western countries and globally, lack a true reflection of the real political, social, and economic situation in Iran. In white balloon, the people of Iran are shown to face trouble like individuals in other countries.
Moreover, these people have families and troubles similar to other countries. From the movie, the culture of Persia has philosophic and poetic sophistication. White balloon possesses a concrete, up-close, and complex view of the hardships faced by the Iranian minorities. Recent movies also reveal the impact of American occupation of Iraq.
The Kurds freeing Iraq enter Iran voice vehement feelings concerning Saddam Hussein, the infamous dictator. Generally, most of the Iranian movies depict a struggling society. Iran struggles to reconcile political choices with cultural traditions, thorny realities, and vaunted ideals. The movies are vital with this regard as they give a nuanced and rich view of challenges prevalent in Iran (Alizadeh, 2005).
How the Society Was Treated In Old Days
Prior to 1950’s, entertainment in the Persian society was limited to musicals and melodramas. Although the society enjoyed a commercial industry with a film festival because of releasing a high number of movies annually, the movies were devoid of social critique. Movies with negative connotations were banned or censored. In the 1960’s change permeated in the Persian society and the entertainment industry.
The cow is among the movies that brought modernist literature to the fore. The traveler depicted the cultural consciousness of Persians. Nonetheless, the political landscape of this country changed with anti-Shah protesters supporting Ayatollah Khomeini, opposing themes in the movies. Traditionalists accused movies of being agents of cultural imperialism by the west. Subsequently, a cinema hall was set ablaze by the militants leading to the demise of 400 people (Cardullo, 2004).
The Iranian revolution in late 1970’s changed the political climate, and this was reflected in the movies. Fundamentalism was entrenched in this society and the entertainment industry focused on cultural dominance. Authorities were wary of the development because cultural fundamentalism was a platform for anti-western sentiments. The Persian society of the aforementioned era was opposed to western ideologies.
Religious conservatism demanded that the media was supposed to focus on the real issues affecting the society not western culture swamped with moral ills. Censorship for social dissent and political criticism reveals that Iranian citizens were oppressed by the regime. Iranian leaders adopted the Sharia law that curtailed certain rights and freedoms. The movies directed in this era could only focus on the positive issues of the society or risk censorship (Cardullo, 2004).
Persian movies have been used to reveal the real life situation in Iran in various eras. The most important periods focused in the movies are the revolution era and the post revolution era. The lives of people in Iran are scrutinized in the movies. Similar to other Islamic countries in various parts of the world, the country is under the leadership of successive regimes.
This leadership if characterized by control of the media. These regimes determine how individuals carry out their activities. Although freedom is not denied in the country, there are laws that limit human rights. The current political system in Iran is based on 1979 constitution that caters for equal economic opportunities for citizens (Moruzzi, 2001).
The Separation is a 2011 movie depicting the contemporary social situation in Iran. As opposed to the cultural fundamentalism depicted in the old movies, the separation illuminates a modern Iranian society that has embraced modernity. Divorce is no longer a major issue as shown in the movies.
Razieh is a young woman who decides to apply for a banking job without consulting her husband. Such a move may have been opposed vehemently in the traditional Persian society whereby women had no priorities and had to comply with the decisions made by their husbands.
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This movie shows the gains achieved by women in Islamic countries. From the movies, Iran is depicted as a country with powerful and influential religious institutions. These institutions determine the law and entrench traditions, which may not be in line with the requirements of human rights. Mosques are frequented as worship centers and played an instrumental role in the revolution that occurred in Iran (Moruzzi, 2001).
Before the revolution elucidated in the contemporary movies, Iran was entirely preservative of its traditions. These traditions were followed and respected by all individuals. Similar to a number of Islamic countries, Iran had regarded some behaviors taboos. Religion, power, and sexuality were sources of emotive debates.
Religious and political leaders ensured that individuals committing crimes in connection with the aforementioned institutions were heavily punished. The forms of punishments meted on these individuals ranged from execution, imprisonment, to ex-communication. Religious matters remain sacred and not subjects of debate in social domains (Moruzzi, 2001).
The effects of Islamic Leadership on the Persian society
The Shia regime in Iraq had a brutal, extravagant, and oppressive legacy. This legacy is synonymous with ravaging economic challenges witnessed in the early 1990’s. The oppressive regime has been elucidated in movies. Because of the oppression, demonstrations were staged in 1971 to protest about the economy’s worsening conditions.
Queer economic policies and mismanagement of resources in Iran led to increase in inflation. The oil boom did not benefit the nationals because foreigners assumed control of oil reservoirs (Pak-Shiraz, 2011). On one hand, the rich are the political elites and the families of the leaders, who lead extravagant lives oblivious of the ramifications on the economy and the lives of the other citizens.
On the other hand, a large proportion of the population wallows in poverty. According to Pak-Shiraz, (2011), about a million individuals in this country live in extreme poverty in total contrast to the political elite. The riches accumulated by the leader during the time of the revolution were sources of discontent among the Iranian populace. These sentiments could not be revealed in the movies because the regime was against movies that depicted leaders in a negative way.
The political situation in Iran worsened as factions emerged to ameliorate the economic conditions. These factions were met with strong resistance by the regime with leaders becoming victims of political assassinations. Even in modern Iran, mass unrests are dealt with ruthlessly. The genesis of the revolution emanated from the death of leaders such as Mostafa. This activist was killed in 1977 after which demonstrations erupted.
After the revolution, Khomeini became the supreme leader. The Shah regime fled the country after recognizing the failure of their policies. Despite measures to quell the demonstrations, people continued to demonstrate without fear. Khomeini started with constitutional amendments to remove outdated laws. The leader ensured that a new constitution was available by the end of the year. In the new constitution, there were policies meant to improve the economy (Pak-Shiraz, 2011).
Although most of Iranians oppose westernization, the revolution era depicted the sentiments in an unprecedented scale. Iranian authorities assumed control of the American embassy and chased all employees. Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi dictator took advantage of a weak Iran state and extended the country’s borders.
Iran became insecure and western nations withdrew their cooperation. The western nations may have helped the country defend its boundaries. The war between Iran and Iraq led to the demise of a million Iranians. Islam was transformed into a strong political movement. Similarly, in the contemporary world, Islam has been politicized (Cardullo, 2004).
Following the revolution, the judicial and social systems in Iran underwent changes. Women were discriminated in the previous regimes but the revolution enabled them to be at the forefront of politics in Iran. Family rights were also guaranteed under the legislation.
Other rights not observed in the previous regimes were property ownership, girl education, the right to receive a fair remuneration in the workplace, and payment during the maternity leave. The women who had been denied their rights under the excuse of the Sharia law embraced the aforementioned achievement. In the previous years, women were not supposed to complain and husbands were authorized to punish them (Cardullo, 2012).
There are concerns that the laws formulated to cater for the rights of women in Iran have not been implemented. The fundamentalism in this society has affected the progress of women emancipation. Cardullo (2012) reveals that there is no improvement on the issue of women rights because women are still subjects of discrimination and abuse.
Moreover, the contribution of the women is much lower than the contribution of their male counterparts. Insecurity in Iran compels women to shy away from public places because of potential attacks by assailants. Nevertheless, Iranian women benefit from the income of the husband. This safeguards their economic position if they are divorced. This property is not given to the wife if still married but only after the divorce, process has been completed.
Several movies have been directed to illuminate the predicament of the Iranian woman. The previous films depicted women as inferior beings but the contemporary film industry in Iran is trying to reverse the situation. Changes in the Iranian society have led to the emergence of female movie directors.
Rackshan Bani-Etemad is a revered actor, screenwriter, and film director. Bani-Etemed started acting at 17 years. The Apple was her first film. This film depicted the plight of the woman and her position in the modern Iranian society. The marriage system in the country has not changed and women are at a disadvantage on matters concerning divorce. The divorced woman cannot be remarried.
Furthermore, a woman cannot have a sexual partner apart from the husband. Extramarital sexual affairs are stable grounds for divorce. In contrast, men are allowed by the law to have as many partners as possible. This cannot form a stable ground for divorce. The women’s duty is to gratify the needs of their husbands and bear children. The inability to meet the aforementioned needs forms a solid ground for a divorce to take place.
The Iranian society has a controversial form of marriage known as the sighel. This is a short marriage and a contract between the man and the woman. The woman stays with the man for sexual gratification and her family gets financial support in return. In this arrangement, the woman gets economic benefits and is not looked down on for agreeing to the arrangement. Moreover, this form of marriage enables women to avoid a permanent marriage, which has laws and bounds similar to a prison (Cardullo, 2012).
The film industry in Iran over relies on foreign directors. This feat has been a source of criticism from the viewers in Iraq and abroad. These viewers have attacked the films for being apolitical and failing to make explicit criticism of the regime in Iran and its abuse of human rights. The White Balloon has received the tag of being sentimental and failing to articulate the social situation in the country.
However, Cardullo (2012) reveals that movies cannot always take a political stand. This movie succeeds in bringing to light the plight of cultural minorities in Iran. The director fails to use political connotations because censorship is still rife in Iran. Through domestic regulations, directors cannot focus on the political causes of issues afflicting the Iranian society. A number of directors have been arrested for reflecting the Iranian society in a negative way (Cardullo, 2012).
To conclude, the various facets of the Persian society have been scrutinized through movies. Nevertheless, politics and religion play a huge role in determining the themes in these movies. From the old days, cultural fundamentalism was entrenched in this society, which vehemently opposed the western ideologies. Because of resentment from the militants, movie houses were burned and several movies censored.
In Iran, the leaders oppose any criticism through brutal crackdown. During the demonstrations that occurred in the revolution era, several people were killed by the regime. The influence of politics and religion in the media is illuminated by the lack of political and religious themes. Directors of movies with political and religious themes have been jailed. This is because the political leaders know that negative depiction of the leaders in the movies can cause protests and demonstrations.
Alizadeh, H. (2005). A Persian Odyssey on Your Small Screen. Fellowship, 71(1), 15-15.
Cardullo, B. (2004). In Search of Cinema:Writings on International Film Art. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press.
Cardullo, B. (2012). World Directors and Their Films:Essays on African, Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern Cinema. Lanham: Scarecrow Press.
Moruzzi, N. C. (2001). Women in Iran: Notes on film and from the field. Feminist Studies, 27(1), 189-100.
Pak-Shiraz, N. (2011). Shi’i Islam in Iranian Cinema:Religion and Spirituality in Film. New York: I.B.Tauris.