Reality and Realism: Iran 60s–80s

Memories of Plums: Reality and Realism of Iran

Yamagata and Iran are plum-producing regions. Each time I taste the bittersweet juice of a Yamagata plum, I recall the stew made with plums offered to me by my friends in Iran, as well as their generosity and ability to take action under difficult circumstances. This special program could not have been realized without their assistance.

Even as I write this text, problems to do with this program persist. Films we plan to show are still in Iran as a consequence of economic sanctions imposed by the USA against the country last year. Nonetheless, with the help of friends, a solution is on the horizon. When I witness their actions, I cannot help but see in them this extraordinary capacity to deal serenely with unexpected difficulties and surmount them with ease.

This time we are screening works from the 1960s to 1980s period that encompasses the Revolution of 1979. Sudden modernization, the Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war resulted in a heavily-regulated society, and yet this era saw the emergence of many Iranian directors capable of producing works that surmounted these challenges.

The work of Kamran Shirdel, a director who has caught the eye of audiences around the world, is brought to Japan for the first time, with screenings of his first four shorts: Women’s Prison (1965), Women’s Quarter (1966–80), Tehran Is the Capital of Iran (1966–80), and The Night It Rained (1967). Even though all these films were produced by the Ministry of Culture and Art, which had just been founded in 1964 under Shah Pahlavi under his policy of modernization, two of the films were seized and were not shown until after the Revolution. This was because these films were commissioned as propaganda celebrating the success of modernization in Iran, and instead skillfully described a reality far removed from that ideal.

We are also showing two works by Sohrab Shahid Saless: A Simple Event (1973), and Still Life (1975). The first was produced by the Ministry of Culture and Art, and the second by a subsidiary company of National Iranian Radio and Television. Both films have influenced filmmakers that followed. Working with amateur actors, adeptly combining documentary techniques and fiction filmmaking, Shahid Saless was able to create his own expression of realism. These films are now considered masterpieces.

The House Is Black (1962) by Forugh Farrokhzad, one of very few women filmmakers at the time, displayed a particular form of poetic realism, as do the films produced by the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, founded in 1965; these include, The Uncle with a Moustache (1969) by Bahram Beizai, Deliverance/Release (1971) by Nasser Taghvai, Black and White (1972) by Shahid Saless, First Case . . . Second Case (1979) by Abbas Kiarostami, and Bashu, the Little Stranger (1985) by Bahram Beizai. Let us not forget the realism put forward by these New Wave directors who were able to move beyond despite the constraints of publicly commissioned films for children to effortlessly create works of cinematic originality.

We also present Khosrow Sinai’s avant-garde piece, Hossein Yavari (1973), produced by National Iranian Radio and Television; Tenancy (1982) by Ebrahim Mokhtari, an episode of a TV series presented by the new national TV station Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB)—leading to a revision of the law dealt with in the film—as well as Water, Wind, Dust (1989) by Amir Naderi, also produced by IRIB, the stylish cinematographic beauty of which conveys the reality of life during war.

I invite everyone to travel down the paths of these filmmakers who skillfully surpassed these tangible constraints with their cinematic reality and realism.

Kato Hatsuyo
Program Coordinator