This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals
The concept of ‘national’ cinema has increasingly been questioned across contemporary scholarship in a globalised era and it seems that the focus has shifted towards the concept of ‘transnational’ instead. While the notion of transnational cinema has emerged in response to the perceived insufficiencies of existing categories such as ‘national’ cinema, in and by itself it is not sufficient either. There is no consensus over the definition and the discourse of ‘transnational cinema’, which raises questions like what makes a film transnational, and are all or only some films transnational?
Much film production is made for domestic markets and it focuses on specific local issues, relying on modes of narration that might not appeal to international audiences. Therefore international audiences are often unaware of large sectors of the world’s film production, because they are not transnational. In the case of Iran, despite the high number of films that have reached international film festivals since the 1990s and the emergence of prolific filmmakers and scholarly studies of ‘the new Iranian cinema’, much of the national cinematic culture does not reach foreign audiences. In fact, based on the international reputation of Iranian cinema one may be lead to think that Iranian cinema only consists of picturesque, minimalist films dealing with lyrical subjects, unaware of many successful romantic comedies, dramas, war cinema and many other genres of Iranian cinema. This can perhaps be explained through the limited international distribution of such films as they do not fit ‘art house’ festivals’ agenda.
There is a degree of ‘national’ in all films and there does not have to be a conflict between the two terms ‘national’ and ‘transnational’. As Debora Shaw argued in her paper on “Deconstrcuting and Reconstructing ‘Transnational Cinema’”, “there is a link between national identities and storytelling at the heart of cinema, even when we take on board all the nuances and questioning of the national that transnational critical approaches have brought.” Although films may not offer the truth about a nation, they do have something to say about the way national identities are constructed. It is through negotiation and crossing borders that transnational elements are built into national elements. This paper will look at Iranian cinema since the 1990s and discuss and compare the advantages and disadvantages of adapting either of the two terminologies ‘national’ and ‘transnational’ in relation to the discourse of Iranian cinema.