Friday 20 February 2015

British Cinema in Iran: A Brief History

Many histories of contemporary Iran are left unwritten. Many stories about Iranians and their struggles throughout the 20th and 21th centuries, powerful and dramatic ones, are yet to be filmed. Foreign films in Iran, their reception and their impact on film culture is one of them.

I have contributed a chapter to a new book on Iran-UK cultural relations published by the British Council. Didgah: New Perspectives on UK-Iran Relations is a study of affinities shared between the two nations through history, art, and language.

In my chapter, called British Cinema in Iran: A Brief History, I've explored the continuing presence of British films in Iran, whether in form of theatrical screening or popular prime time TV series. It delves into various types of history, such as the history of Iran in 20th century, its film culture and even my personal history and a very special relationship I developed as a teenager with British films on TV.

It is a history which spans the promotional films of the British Council, in the 1940s to TV series such as The Sweeney, Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, and Edge of Darkness in 1990s. Sporadically, but often enthusiastically, British cinema and television productions have been highly appreciated in Iran and the UK’s identity has been on display in many and various ways.

I have narrated it, after an introduction, in three parts as following:

  • First golden period: the documentary movement
  • Second golden period: British art house cinema vs. Norman Wisdom 
  • After the revolution: Norman (again), Nazis and beyond
Like any narrated history, there is a conclusion too.

The book can be download in its entirety here or viewed online, below.

Saturday 14 February 2015

Berlin: A Cinetopographic Guide

"Our taverns and our metropolitan streets, our offices and furnished rooms, our railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked up hopelessly. Then came the film and burst this prison world asunder."  —Walter Benjamin

The topographical Berlin, which one can journey to by train or plane, was born in the 12th century. The celluloid Berlin, which one also buys a ticket for but takes a different kind of trip to, materialized much later, towards the end of the 19th century. The silver screen immediately became a site of living memory for the city, as well as a means by which to project into future.

The “birth” of the celluloid Berlin took place on a rooftop above the Schönhauser Allee, when the inventors of German cinema, the Skladanowski brothers, captured Berlin’s skyline. Only a few of those frames remain, ghostly and fading. Provoked by these images, we will explore some of the best examples of Berlin on film.

Encounters at the End of the World: The Departed, 2014

A visual homage to some of the key figures in film who passed away in 2014. A cine comic strip by Ehsan Khoshbakht and Naiel Ibarrol.