Redefining the filmic genres of Iranian cinema: the generic qualities of New Iranian cinema

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PhD Candidate in Film Studies at University of Edinburgh
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Born and raised in Tehran, Iran, Maryam Ghorbankarimi moved to Canada in 2001 to continue her education in film at Toronto’s Ryerson University. She is currently a PhD candidate in film studies at the University of Edinburgh in the UK and her research focus is on representation of women in Iranian Cinema. Maryam is also a filmmaker and has made a number of short films, both fiction and documentary, which have been shown at festivals such as Montreal International Film Festival, Beijing International Short Film Festival, and Tehran International Short Film Festival. Her research interests include women, gender, and cinema, and in general the cinemas of the developing countries.

Cinema has inherited a habit of categorizing artworks into types from its other sister arts such as literature and painting. The question of genre in cinema has been raised with regards to European films and Hollywood films from the early years of film theory. As Robert Stam argues, as with the literary genres, filmic genres are influenced by social and historical factors. Cinematic categories have been defined with corollaries located within the entire course of Western literature. It is often the case that these defined genres are applied to other, non-Western, cinemas since many of these terminologies are purported to be universal.

In the study of Iranian cinema, the terms Iranian New Wave or New Iranian cinema have been coined so as to define certain Iranian films in a relation to Western filmic genres. This definition of Iranian cinema, which was given to a group of films that enjoyed international acclaim in the 1990s, no longer can be held fixed as the only filmic genre of Iranian cinema, not even those that continue to find audiences in international settings. In recent years more diverse types of Iranian films have been given the chance to appear on international screens, and this fact, more than ever before, calls for a more meticulous categorizing of Iranian cinema into different, more specific, filmic genres. Although in this paper I will not question the notion of an Iranian New Wave, which has an aesthetic resemblance with Italian Neorealism, I will instead juxtapose Iranian cinema with its sister art, Persian literature, so as to propose better ways to categorize contemporary Iranian cinematic practice. Looking at several case studies drawn from the recent history of Iranian filmmaking, this paper proposes a new, critical methodology to redefine film genres used to discuss Iranian cinema.

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Film Studies
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