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Critic's Notebook: Being a Young Film Critic in Modern Iran

By Hossein Eidi Zadeh | Indiewire August 24, 2012 at 9:00AM

Critic's Notebook: Being a Young Film Critic in Modern Iran
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An issue of Film, an Iranian publication about contemporary cinema.
An issue of Film, an Iranian publication about contemporary cinema.

During my first year in high school, I started watching movies like crazy. I had a PC and knew about film clubs that rented uncut films illegally, so I watched more than a thousand films during my four years in high school. Those movies were mostly entertaining blockbusters like "Titanic" and "Godzilla," but also became interested in horror through "Scream" and "Nightmare on Elm Street," as well as classics like "The Godfather." Some of the non-English films I saw during this period include "Last Tango in Paris" and "Persona."

The internet was a miracle for us: It helped us feel like we were connected to the world.

As I was getting more and more into movies at the turn of the century, I watched two movies that changed my life: "American Beauty" and "The Matrix." While "The Matrix" showed me new frontiers in filmmaking, "American Beauty" taught me how a story must be told. Watching these two, I decided to become a director, a dream I still pursue. It was at that same time that I started using the internet, though our connection speed was (and remains, compared to Western standards) very low. Using the internet, I could learn more about movies and read about movies that were not discussed about in domestic magazines (especially if they contained sexual content). It was thanks to the internet that I became aware of film directors I now adore, such as Peter Greenaway. In short, the internet was a miracle for us: It helped us feel like we were connected to the world.

Aside from the inability to view movies in Iranian theaters, critics are further limited by the country's religious standards. Since nudity and sexuality are forbidden in Iranian cinema, critics prefer not to write about such movies in official publications. (Both "Antichrist" and "Shame", for example, were barely covered by the Iranian press.) Instead, they turn to their Facebook pages.

For many Iranians, cinema is their window to the world beyond their restrictive borders. My window was Fellini. The first movie of his I watched all the way through was "Julliet of the Spirits," but the film that opened the window was that still image from "The Clowns." To this day, it remains my favorite movie of all time.

This article is related to: Iran, Critic's Notebook







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