Film Censorship and the Iranian Revolution

1438 words (6 pages) Essay

18th May 2020 Film Studies Reference this

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Film making is an art of expressing a certain theme or lesson through storytelling the lives of the characters in the movie. Movies have been a way of expressing the ideas and opinions for a long time now, these serve as an appreciation or criticism of the prevalent norms of the society which the director may want to speak for/against. This has drawn severe censorship from authoritarian rule who don’t want such rules to propagate. Similar is the context with the Iranian revolution, the Iranian revolution was a movement against the atrocities of the dictatorship of ‘Shah’ but ended up into more severe censorship for the people and the film-making.

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    The Iranian revolution was a people uprising against the dictator who had placed them under strict laws and censorship. The main aim was to pursue liberty and social equality but ultimately it placed a fundamentalist Islamic government at the power which forbids everything that they deem is outside their code of ‘Sharia’. These laws are very orthodox and have severe censorships. These laws dictate the social and personal lives of the people who come under their rule. It is mandatory to follow the rules and it attracts severe punishments if any deviations from rules are found. This affected the everyday lives of people along with the entertainment activities they followed. The censorship affected the movies as these censorships were multi-dimensional; it prohibited them from showing any political messages as well as barred them from showing women in movies as they traditionally had been shown. There is a ban on display of women on the screen without hijab as it violated the Islamic laws. They are supposed to be wearing hijab at all times irrespective of the scenes that they play undermining the quality of their role. It means that the actress shall be wearing ‘hijab’ in indoor scenes which is not consistent with the normal practices of the women in Iran. This makes it extremely difficult for directors to depict the scenes of the women as the roles of females allowed in movies are inconsistent with reality. They can’t display their emotions which are a vital part of acting and their hair should not be shown in the camera which usually adds up to the beauty of women. This means that half the population has a negligible role in movies under the new Iranian regime and the problems faced by them can’t be screened in the movies. But instead of perishing the Iranian movies just didn’t give up and found a way to work under the terms of censorship while sending the message that they want to convey.

    The movies are now dependent upon ‘Allusion’ to convey the messages that are barred under censorship. An allusion is a sneaky way of implying things which can’t be communicated directly to the intended audience. An illustration of this would be using the emotion ‘love’ in any movie. The western movies have the freedom to show how the love between two adults and all the acts that they do to express this feeling of love is widely used and accepted. This is simply illegal in Iranian movies as an expression of love in public by two adults is against the Islamic values that Iranian authorities implement through censorship. So the directors simply use an emotion ‘love’ as seen through the eyes of a child, it may be towards parents or any other figure that they have in their life. This helps the directors to bypass the laws that are in place while expressing the stories that they want to propagate. This limits the expression of the movie as the possibilities of experimenting with human emotions become difficult. But it also gives a unique taste as everything is implied and not directly told. This way of expression that is uncommon in the cinema of other places which makes the movie unique as story-telling of the movie is different from other movies. This has however limited the plot story of the movies; most of the movies are simplistic with no major twists as it fears to attract the censor of the authorities. It usually revolves around daily simple incidents of life as complicated scenes would require massive manoeuvring to follow the rules. Another way is to distribute the movie illegally or through internet download, many widely acclaimed movies are underground Iranian movies that were never screened in Iran.

    The Iranian revolution was the result of limitless bloodshed which was quickly followed by a war with Iraq. In western societies, we usually see the war from the perspective of a soldier and their duties and rarely from the perspective of the victims of the war. The struggle of the people suffering from war is greatly depicted by the movie, ‘Persepolis’. The entire movie is based on the experience of a small child in Iran. The girl is brought up in the final days of the dictatorship of ‘Shah’ where we see the work of propaganda in full action. Before the fall of the emperor, the Iranian schools and teacher propagated that the leader was placed by the god and he was destined to rule them. This was imprinted on the tender mind of the child who claimed that it was indeed true as the teacher had told her. This was quickly replaced when the government of ‘Shah’ fell as the same teachers now propagated opposite facts. The children in the war zones are often exposed to the cruel deeds done by the people struggling for power. Their minds are unable to handle the two faceted sides of the stories and often indulge in violence to seek revenge for unjust done by a person. The learning age of the children is often plagued with the endless vicious cycle of revenge and counter revenge. The revolution had displaced the dictator to place a more cruel administration which interfered with the personal lives of the people. They were stopped from partying, were forced to wear ‘hijab’, subjected to unruly censorship and often told how to do things. These people were punished for their earlier lifestyles and mostly killed for petty reasons. The ones that were worst affected were the women, they were forced to veil themselves and follow the dress code that was decided by the government. They were not allowed to go out with men and often discouraged from driving or doing any type of recreation. The apathetic system placed unqualified people at places of importance and it made the lives of the people hell. This is seen in the health department where a window cleaner was placed as the head of medical services.

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    In desperation, the people send out their loved ones out of lands to make their lives better or to avoid prosecution. Similar was the case of the girl who was sent to live in Europe and had a pretty hard time acclimatizing to the culture of Europe. We see numerous examples where she is unable to understand the meaning of practices followed by the people. This gives them a sense of aloofness as they are now far away from their families and support system unable to cope up with the problems of their lives. This often pushes them off the edge as they end up in depression or join extremism. This displacement of the people from their homelands is a sorry state of affairs for many people. This also brings out a sense of longing for happiness, the girl had seen a revolution, survived a war and had lost her entire life in Europe but still, she wanted to be happy. The stigma that she had faced had scarred her but still, in the end, she triumphed and decided to work off her unhappiness and left again in pursuit of happiness. We can analyse the situation that is prevalent in the society but none of the research would help us understand the lives of the people directly affected by it. This movie gave us a first-hand experience of the sufferings of the common folks and truly is a guide to their problems.

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