Daily Archives: October 6, 2020

A Few Underpinnings of the New Iranian Cinema

This was apparently written in 2002, but I can no longer recall the circumstances or occasion for my writing it. — J.R.

During my only visit so far to Iran — as a member of the jury of the Fajr film festival in Tehran last year —- I was asked the same question repeatedly by many of the Iranians I met: “Why do you Americans [or westerners] like Iranian films so much?” And more often than not, this was followed by a second question: “Is it because they show so many poor people, which is the image of Iran that Americans [or westerners] prefer to have?” Given that many of the most valued and validated Iranian art films shown abroad are either banned or ignored on their home turf, it seemed like an understandable source of curiosity, made even more striking by the oft-reported fact that the films seen most often by most Iranians are unsubtitled, pirated videos of brand new American commercial features.

With these circumstances in mind, my usual response to their question was something like, “It’s true that Iranian art movies tend to show too many poor people. But American commercial movies tend to show too many rich people, and if you think they provide an accurate picture of the way we live, then you’re just as mistaken as we are.”

Read more »

Print the Legend: Media Manipulation in American Films: Try & Get Me, Ace in the Hole, Sweet Smell of Success

The following was written to accompany a film series put together by Ehsan Khoshbakht, Imogen Sara Smith, and myself for a tour in Turkey in late 2018 sponsored by the American Embassy. I don’t know if it was used in this form.  — J.R.

“Fake news”, the term paradoxically used by Donald Trump for journalism that exposes his own lies and corruption, evokes what George Orwell called New-speak in 1984, whose slogans included “war is peace” and “ignorance is strength”. Trump’s cleverness as a media manipulator consists of appropriating the very term that describes his own practice while reversing its meaning so that his opponents — including the people who put together this film program about “fake news,” my colleagues and myself — can no longer use it without speaking on Trump’s behalf. This is surely manipulation with a vengeance, where control over both language and presence becomes another form of class inequality. So when TV executives remark that Trump is bad for America but good for television, they’re only suggesting that these two latter entities have separate agendas and even separate owners, neither of which happens to be the American public.