History of Iran Cinema
Persian Art

History of Iran Cinema


Iranians love cinema. Although it was not invented in Iran, it is highly popular in Iran. At the weekends, Iranians stand in a long line to buy a ticket for a film. I have done it several times with a group of my friends. It is fun and entertaining. Iran cinema has so many ups and downs since its presence in Iran from the early 20th century.

Iranian cinema appeared during Mozaffaredin Shah, Qadjar King once he began his travel to Europe in 1900. The first film material imported to Iran then was A Gaumont Camera. Filming was just for entertainment or hobby for the kings and his courtiers. There are some films on Iran Kings in his palace and people on the streets in Iran Film Archive.

Nassereddin Shah Qajar and cinema

Despite the fact that Iran was considered a third world country, its cinema has gradually developed and bloomed in recent years. Iran cinema made a name for its self by pre-revolutionary directors and actors and later on great directors and famous actors and actresses found their feet on international red carpets around the world such as Leila Hatami, Shahab Hosseini, Asghar Farhadi, Ali Hatami and dear Abbas Kiarostami.

Abbas Kiarostami

Cinema is a Brand New World

During a trip to France in 1900, Mozaffaredin Shah, Qadjar King showed up in a cinematographic screening. Passionate about these animated images of people in motion, he decides to get one home. Immediately, he orders to his chief photographer, to learn how it works. Mirza Ebrahim Khan, whose title is Akkas Bashi, did it. The Shah wanted to offer it to the ladies of his harem. After all, he was famous for his harem.

Princess Qajar - Iran history of Cinema

Then, this photographer bought a Gaumont camera in France. Shah used to spend a lot of money on his entertainment. This was one of many. He shot a film on a carnival of flowers taking place in Ostend, Belgium. And that made him the first cameraman in Iran's cinematographic history. That is how Iran got a cinema. A Brand New World opened to Iran and its people.



The advent of Shooting Films in Iran

The Iranian cinema was exclusively leisure reserved to the Royal Court. Despite Western countries, Iranian cinema was an elitist entertainment. Therefore, it presented only the travels of the Shah of Iran to Europe, the life of women in the harem, court life and the posh princesses. The procession of Hossein's mourning during the Ashura festival was another theme. Finally, Mozaffareddin Shah decided to make the first film in Persian. The subject was the life of the eunuchs of the court. A few years later, the constitutional revolution released cinematographic art from this private place and became public.

old cinema in Iran


Gradually, several rooms are built to present films publicly. It was in 1908 that the first announcement concerning the cinema was published in the newspapers. In fact, Mirza Ebrahim Khan Sahafbashi had already inaugurated a cinema located on Cheragh Gaz Street (currently Amir Kabir) in Tehran. He presented comic or current short films of at least ten minutes.

Cheragh Gaz -Street

But Ebrahim Khan had liberal ideas. For him, the ways of thinking could evolve thanks to this new art. That is why he presented films reflecting his ideas. Hence, after a month, the room was closed and equipment confiscated for disseminating liberalistic ideas. 

It was after the bombardment of the Assembly by the royal forces (1909), cinema changed his goal. Revolutionaries and members of the court, two forces opposed to distant ideas, occupied the hall. They used the cinemas for their propaganda. This is where cinema linked to politics and political orientations.

History of Iran Cinema


Early Foreigners and the Iranian cinema

In the beginning, public cinemas were built by religious minorities and foreigners. In 1908 Rusi Khan, originally from Russia, was the first to inaugurate a theater in Tehran. He presented the imported film '' Long live Russia '' (Zendeh bad russieh) about the war between Russia and Japan.

History of Iran cinema Fotros Travel

Despite requests from Iranians, it only featured films imported from or supporting Russia. The Russian community living in Iran endorsed these choices, including Liokhoff. However, Rusi Khan finally emigrated to France following the fall of Mohammed Ali Shah.


Popular cinema and new measures

In 1912 Ardeshir Khan, of Armenian origin, was the only one to make popular cinema in Iran similar to the present day. First, he opened a movie theater on Allaodowlleh Street where shows like Tarzan were screened. Other important measures have also popularized the cinema. The use of a translator to subtitle foreign films in Persian is the first. The provision of refreshments for spectators is the second. As a result, a group of musicians played music to accompany movies.

The inauguration of a women's room, paving the way to let them into other cinemas, was one of several measures taken to increase the number of spectators. The cinema did not evolve much until the end of the Qajar era: there was still entertainment reserved for minorities.


Iranian cinema at the 30s

It was in the 1930s that Avanes Ohanian made the first narrative-style feature film "Abi o Rabi". It marks a turning point in the history of Iranian cinema. It was brought to the screen in the Mayak cinema located in Tehran. Thus, Avanes Ohanian founded the first Iranian cinema school named "The Artistic Education House of Cinema" (Parvareshgah_e Artisti_e cinema). His second film '' Hadj agha aktor_e cinema '' (Hadji agha film actor) did not have commercial success.

Abi o Rabi


Haji Agha, the Movie Actor (1933)

Cinema and Film Production in Iran

Following the invention of the talking cinema, Iranian artists will gradually experiment with the production of talking films. Therefore, in the winter of 1933, the presentation of the first talking movie The Girl Lor (Dokhtar-e Lor) was a success. Abdolhossein Sepanta introduced him in Mayak and Sépah cinemas.

The Lor Girl (1933)

In fact, in this film, Rouhangiz Saminejad played the leading role. She is considered the first Iranian actress. She then appeared in another film, Shirin o Farhad (Shirin and Farhad), directed by this same director. Criticized by her entourage, Saminejad renounced to play in films and she withdrew from the world.

Cinema Iran History


Iranian cinema in the 50s

In 1953 Hassan Kheradmand directed the film Gerdab (Whirpool). Written by himself and played by Naser Malek Motie, Gerdab is the first Persian film screened in color. Whereas before its projection, the film was sent to the United States for the colorization. Thus, at the beginning of the '50s, the number of films in Persian doubled. Cinema had become popular entertainment. Similarly, the number of cinemas increased in Tehran and other provinces. Other events are to be mentioned. A woman named Shahla Riahi made her film "Marjaan". She presented it on the occasion of the first film festival known as "Golrizan".

Naser Malek Motiei, Mohammad Ali Fardin , Behrouz Vossoughi

Farsi Cinema and Commercial Productions of the 60s

In the 1960s, Farsi cinema (Persian) culminated. Although it was founded in the 50s, it produced annually from 25 to 70 films. Most were comical, taking up popular stories with elements such as dances and songs, leaks and chases, fights and so on. But producers were especially concerned with attracting the most spectators, to the detriment of quality.

The emergence of new filmmakers has attracted the attention of critics. Thanks to that, these years can be considered as the harbinger of modern Iranian cinema. Filmmakers such as Farrokh Ghaffari, Davoud Mollapoor or Ebrahim Golestan marked this period.

Therefore, the release of two works, Dariush Mehrjui's Cow (Gaav) and Massoud Kimiaei's Queysar (César), mark a turning point in Iranian cinema. Hence, many structural changes will be realized in the Iranian cinema.

Dariush Mehrjui's Cow (Gaav)

Because of the existence of commercial productions, amusing and superficial brought to the screen, the films mentioned above, while being welcomed by the critics and while inspiring a few years later other directors, did not attract not the attention of the public.

Massoud Kimiaei's Queysar (César)


The Islamic revolution and Iranian cinema

From the Islamic Revolution, Iranian cinema underwent fundamental changes, like all other artistic fields. The films then deal with revolutionary, religious and ideological subjects. Many directors who do not adhere to this line have given up producing films or have emigrated.

Iranian cinema in the 80s

The film Faryade Mojahed (The cry of a soldier of the holy war) directed by Mehdi Ma'danian was the first film of the post-revolutionary cinema to be brought to the screen in 1980. Despite the war in the 80s, The third generation of filmmakers, based on experience and science, aimed to improve the quality of films.

Faryade Mojahed


New film organizations in Iran

In fact, after the Islamic revolution, new organisms were created. They sought to promote the quality of films, the development of the film industry and to favor filmmakers. It is the Sureh Cinema Development Organization (Sazman-e Tose'eh-esinemā'i-e Sureh). It is dependent on the artistic department of the organization of Islamic propaganda. The other organization is the Farabi Film Foundation (Bonyād-e sinemā'i-e Fārābi). In 1983, this foundation was reserved as a primary goal. It was to modify the themes tackled by Iranian cinema during the Farsi film period to that of post-revolutionary cinema.


In 1981, the Sureh Film Development Organization (Sazman-e Tose'eh-esinemā'i-e Sureh) began operations. Since 2000, she has been responsible for organizing the entire national film industry:


The development of cinema

Control of works


Issuance of operating visas

The release of films abroad

Control of projection rooms

With over 80 theaters in 19 provinces, she has produced more than 60 works of interest.


Global Recognition of Iranian Cinema

Established in 1982, the Fajr Film Festival (Jashnvareh-e film-e Fajr) is one of the largest in Iran. It is held every year from 1 to 10 February on the occasion of the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. The Simorgh (The Legendary Bird) of Shahnameh Ferdowsi is given as the reward at this festival.

Fajr Film Festival

In fact, it was in 1971 that the first international prize of the Chicago Film Festival was awarded to Ezatollah Entezami for his lead role in the film The Cow (Gaav). A short time later, in 1987, Jamshid Mashayekhi was awarded the prize for the best actor of the post-revolutionary Iranian cinema. He had it at the Pyongyang Non-Aligned Film Festival in North Korea for his role in the movie Grandfather. Fatemah Motamed-Aria, won 11 awards as an actress. She is an Iranian actress with the most international awards.

In the last 50 years, out of 203 Iranian film awards, 70 have been for women and 61 for men. The most prestigious awards in the history of Iranian cinema were won at the International Cannes Film Festival.

In 1997, finally, Abbas Kiarostami won the gold award for best film The taste of cherry. 15 years later in 2012, Asghar Farhadi won the Oscar and the Golden Hugo for the best foreign film for his film "Une séparationd".

Une séparation - Film (2011)


The Best Screenplay Award rewarded Asghar Farhadi in 2016 for The Client (Forushandeh) and Golden Palm for Best Actor Shahab Hosseini for his role in this film.

The Salesman (Forushande)

Big Names of Iranian cinema

Iran's top filmmakers include Ali Hatami, Abbas Kiarostami, Massoud Kimiaei, Asghar Farhadi, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad. There are several Iranian actresses who have had a lot of success. Here are some names: Ezatollah Entezami, Ali Nassirian, Motamed-Aria Fatemah, Leila Hatami, Shahab Hosseini. The presence of Iranian actors and directors in the juries is also remarkable.

Ali Hatami


Iran cinema has developed many ideas and philosophies during recent years. The wide ranges of films in different genres testify this fact. Iranian are now looking for third Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film with Asghar Farhadi’s presence.

Asghar Farhadi

Ebrahim Barzegar

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