Illustrating life before the 1979 Iranian revolution, ‘filmfarsi’, a form of popular cinema epitomising ‘the aspirations and illusions of a modernising society’, is nowadays considered by many in Iran as ‘a souvenir of a lost past’. Filmfarsi cinema was perceived as one of the most thriving film industries in the Middle East, blending Iranian ‘local flavour’ with borrowed genres from across the globe such as from Western cinema and from Bollywood films. The eclectic genre is deemed to have encapsulated ‘song and dance, sex and seduction, violence and vengeance’.
Coined by the film critic Hushang Kavusi as ‘filmfarsi’ with the intent to ridicule the sloppiness of such films, the genre can today be more appropriately judged within the broader context of Iranian mainstream cinema as a testament of Iranian culture during the past; its films serving as depictions of how its society has transformed over the years. With the imminent 1979 revolution, Filmfarsi was transformed into ‘something profound and politically committed’, symbolising ‘the Iranian way of life after the second world war, with all its paradoxes’. Its ‘schizophrenic nature’ of latching onto anything deemed ‘modern’ with one hand whilst simultaneously rejecting it with the other, is said to parallel and exemplify how Iranian society has changed and been moulded over the years.
Students planning to apply to Oriental and Middle Eastern Studies can delve deeper into research onto such topics, tracing the changes seen in Oriental and Middle Eastern societies such as those observed in contemporary Iranian culture over recent decades, such as by analysing documents of the past including a society’s cinematic history.