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These 10 Iranian Movies Are Essential Viewing

These 10 Iranian Movies Are Essential Viewing

Iranian Movies

6. Blackboards (2000)

Director: Samira Makhmalbaf 

Other notable films: Two Legged Horse, At Five in the Afternoon, The Apple, 11’09”01 September 11

Director Samira Makhmalbaf herself describes the film as “Something between reality and fiction. Smuggling, being homeless, and people’s efforts to survive are all part of reality. The film, as a whole, is a metaphor.” It centers around a group of Kurdish refugees who roam around with blackboards on their backs, looking for students in the hills of Iran. With a hint of poetry interspersed with harsh bits of realism, the film delivers a parallel-story plot very well. Revolving around themes of education as a mechanism of healing the broken country, the film captures the noble desires of the common people, who wish to bring about a change in the landscape of Iran. Blackboards won the Jury Prize at Official Competition section of the Cannes Film Festival along with the UNESCO Federico Fellini Honour.

Where to Watch: YouTube 


7. The Hidden Half (2001)

Director: Tamineh Milani

Other notable films: The Fifth Reaction, Cease Fire

One of Iran’s most prominent feminist filmmakers, writer-director Tamineh Milani’s most well regarded work The Hidden Half is based upon the hidden lives of the hidden half of a country like Iran (the hidden half being the women of the nation). Intermixing the themes of politics and womanhood, this film brings to the fore, the causes and implications of a woman’s involvement in matters that are considered fit for men. The film gained international attention upon Milani’s arrest for depicting a woman’s involvement with a much older man before marriage. Set amidst a tumultuous turn of events, the film is a true reflection of the society of its times. Merging the sentimental along with the intellectual with respect to a woman’s lived reality, the film is a promising tale that resonates with the underdog spirit.


8. Persepolis (2007)

Director: Marjane Sartrapi and Vincent Paronnaud

Other notable films: The French Kissers, Chicken With Plums, The Gang of Jotas, The Voices, Radioactive

Based on the autobiographical eponymous novel by Marjane Sartrapi, this film revolves around the story of an outspoken girl and her coming-of-age during the Iranian Revolution. Written and directed by Sartrapi herself, in collaboration with Vincent Paronnaud, the film’s approach is uniquely two-dimensional in terms of animation. What is interesting is the occassional use of colour in a black and white animation, to highlight a particular object or turn of events. One of the most interesting themes dealt with under the ambit of the film is that of the diaspora’s alienation from their forever changing homeland. Besides, the politics and poetics of Iran come to be honestly reflected in the film. It premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, where it went on to win the Jury Prize. Persepolis was also nominated for an Academy Award.

Where to Watch: Vimeo


9. The Cow (1969)

Director: Dariush Mehrjui

Other notable films: Hamoun, The Pear Tree, The Cycle, Leila

Immediately banned after release in Iran, this film was critically acclaimed after being showcased in the Berlin film festival. The 1969 film marked the beginning of serious cinema in Iran. It is widely regarded by critics as the first film of the Iranian New Wave. Before that, the film industry that existed in the country focused more on imitations of world cinema. Blending the filmic sensibilities of the Italian Neo-Realistic genre along with drama told through absurdist narritivisation, this film succeeds in telling the story of a man whose cow goes missing, leading him to believe that he is the cow. Now, you might wonder why a narrative like this works. It does because under the garb of a seemingly simple story lay deeply embedded metaphors alluding to larger macrocosms operating in the Iranian society. It won the critics prize (FIPRESCI) in 1971 Venice Film Festival.

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Where to Watch: YouTube


This is one country that will not disappoint you when it comes to movies. Other prominent directors of Iranian cinema include Bahman Ghobadi, Rakhshan Bani-E’temad, Amir Naderi and Bahram Beyzai. Each of their works are equally worth exploring; each film crafted with finesse. Besides giving a general idea of life in Iran, the films are full-blown lessons in the expansive capacities of filmmaking.

We hope you enjoy them. Tell us your favourite Iranian movies in the comments below!

By Sanghmitra Jethwani


Recommended: 3 Films To Watch For Tips On Zero-Budget Filmmaking, Writes Sudhish Kamath


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