- Dr Lora Koycheva



Mailing & Discussion List

Contact the UCL Mellon Programme

Andrew W Mellon Foundation

UCL homepage



UCL Mellon Programme: Interdisciplinary Seminar 2008-2009

Seminar: 23 February, 2009 (Chair: Dr Saeed Talajooy, more ... )

Logo and link: Iran heritage Foundation Iranian Cinema: Gender, Nation and Narration
(with the generous support of the Iran Heritage foundation, more ...)

A screening and discussion of:

Ten (English sub-titles)
(Dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 2002)


In his post-revolutionary films Abbas Kiarostami has shown a constant urge to confront the illusionist cinema by a multiplicity of strategies. Among these strategies, using armature actors, working on seemingly insignificant and un-dramatic subjects, adding meta-cinematic layers by filming the filming process and mixing fact and fiction have been most prominent. This is particularly so with the last strategy, which has come to occupy a special place in the new wave of Iranian cinema, creating some powerful cinematic moments that perhaps even the filmmakers themselves did not expect; moments in which the facts of the actors’ lives impinge themselves on the fictions that are forced onto them. In western critical discourse, Brechtian is the collective term used to refer to these anti-illusionist techniques, but a tracing of the genealogy of these practices reveals their roots in what we can term, the pre proscenium-arch theatre, where the relationship between the actors and the audience is mutual and less formal and the actors do not insist on posing as characters.

In post-revolutionary Iran, the style became prevalent basically because of the limitations imposed on cinema, which prevented it from being masterfully illusionist. Women could not be shown in their intimate relations and had to appear in hejab in all scenes. There were also a host of subjects that filmmakers could not approach. This absurd situation pushed some directors to circumvent the limitations by increasing the anti-illusionist aspects and creating new spaces for cinema. Yet when the limitations were relaxed and filmmaker could deal with more subjects, they did not stop using the techniques and continued to create new spaces for cinematic discourse. Kiarostami’s cinema was from the early years immersed in children’s worlds and visions, but now rather than putting his cinema into educational use, he was putting children at the centre of his films to create new ways of questioning cultural and ideological beliefs. His films recurrently broke the veil of fiction to become cinematic embodiments of this probing. Our cultural, religious and social beliefs and ideologies are like the fictions that fail to stand the test of reality.

From a political point of view his films confront the revisionist histories of numerous ideological positions which claim the souls of Iranian people and by extension human beings in general. Rather than focusing on making illusionist feature films which, even at their best and most culturally relevant, are likely to create alternative histories or perspectives, Kiarostami bares his subject to a form of naked reality that escapes interpretation and problematizes the author/director’s right to rearrange the events to offer solutions or meanings. In Ten (2002), these moments are created by the arguments between an outspoken boy and his mother, which as far as I know, are unprecedented in cinema, and by the conversations between the main character and her passengers who occupy the claustrophobic space of the car to talk about their claustrophobic or pragmatic love relations, their everyday problems, their desires, cravings and dependencies and the possibility of accepting, transcending or sublimating them.

Suggested Reading

Caputo, Rolando, (2003), ‘Five to Ten: Five Reflections on Abbas Kiarostami's 10’ in Senses of Cinema. Online Version at <http://archive.sensesofcinema.com/contents/03/29/ten.html

Dabashi, Hamid, (2007), Masters and Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema. Washington DC: Mage Publishers.

Mir-Ehsan, Mir-Ahmad-e, (1999), ‘Dark Light’, in Rose Issa and Sheila Whitaker (eds), Life and Art: The New Iranian Cinema. London: National Film Theatre. 105-14

Williamson, Casey, (1999), ‘Art Matters: the Films of Abbas Kiarostami’, in Rose Issa and Sheila Whitaker (eds), Life and Art: The New Iranian Cinema. London: National Film Theatre. 90-104

This page last modified 26 September, 2012 by UCL Mellon Admin

Book cover: Muamma

Book cover: Unpacking the collection

imag: book cover, Federica  Mazzara

Discursive Constructions of Identity in European Politics

Singing Poets: Literature and Popular Music in France and Greece (1945-1975)

Northern Constellations: New Readings in Nordic Cinema by Claire Thomson, UCL Mellon Fellow (2004-2006)

Mediating the Nation by Mirca Madianou, UCL Mellon Fellow (2002-2004)

University College London - Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT - Telephone: +44 (0)20 7679 2000 - Copyright © 1999-2005 UCL

Search by Google