Monday 18 February 2019

Underline#4: The Abadan Issue (Editorial + Download link)


Without the discovery of oil in Masjed Soleyman in 1908, the city of Abadan would not have experienced the tempest of economic and cultural changes that swept through it in just two decades; a transformation unmatched by any other city in Iran.

That which made Abadan thrive, and drew crowds of western engineers, investors and exploiters, was also a source of misery. The history of this picturesque port city is also the history of colonial interests and foreign intervention.

Abadan proudly fought inequality, and the nationalisation of the oil industry in 1951 was its moment of glory. Less than three decades later, an aggressive and massively destructive Iraqi army invasion under Saddam Hussein once again pushed the city to the edge, only for it to see another Phoenix-like resurgence.

Why Abadan? Answering that question means delving deeper into the history of one of the most dynamic urban areas in Iran; one which has produced a significant number of great artists, some of whom are featured in this issue. It also brings us, inevitably, to the painful yet important matter of the presence of the British in the region. Even though our focus is chiefly on art, you will read passages that detail how the British influence contributed to a distinct cultural scene, while also introducing segregation and capitalist exploitation.

The preparation of this issue would not have been possible without the generous support of Iranian historian Abbas Baharloo, himself an Abadani. He provided us with most of the rarely seen photographs published here for the first time and contributed two fine essays. He told me once: “Abadan is my ruined hometown and I still love that ruin.” I have often heard such moving words from Abadani people, expressing a sense of love, attachment, and deep sympathy with the sufferings of a city. Abadan is a magnetic field of nostalgia, devastation, and a very unique kind of beauty.

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Print the Legend: Media Manipulation in American Films

The Sound of Fury (French poster)
A revised (i.e. "censored) version of Jonathan Rosenbaum's original draft which, for comparison purposes, can be accessed here. You won't be surprised to see which parts were eliminated. This was for a programme Jonathan and I curated in Ankara, Turkey. -- EK

Print the Legend: Media Manipulation in American Films
Jonathan Rosenbaum & Ehsan Khoshbakht

Living in the age of "post-truth", "fake news" is a term one can hardly avoid. In American films of the 1950s, this meant a way of manipulating the masses by distorting facts, turning social events of grave importance into a sideshow, even mobilising mobs, from whom those manipulating the dominant narrative would benefit. Today, however, somewhat paradoxically, it can also mean something else: a denial of the lies or acts of corruption exposed by trustworthy media sources, evoking the Newspeak described in George Orwell’s dystopic novel Nineteen Eight-Four, with its famous slogans, "War is Peace" and "Ignorance is Strength".