Colourful presence : an analysis of the evolution in the representation of women in Iranian cinema since the 1990s
This dissertation analyzes the change in the representation of women in Iranian cinema since the 1990s and investigates the motives behind it by looking at the overall history of Iranian cinema and those active in its production. Iranian cinema, both before and after the Islamic Revolution, has been closely watched by the ruling powers and one way or another has been utilized to relay messages that comply with the dominant order. But this has not completely shut down all the efforts of the filmmakers striving to convey a more meaningful message. The Iranian cinema industry has been the arena of an elite intellectual group of people; only following the 1979 Revolution and the “legitimization of cinema” by the Islamic order did it become a widely accessible industry to the general public, who tended to ignore or oppose it prior to the Islamic Revolution. This thesis pays close attention to the changing roles of women in film production and representation. Although aspects of women’s lives become stricter after the Revolution, it is in this period—from the late 1980s into the 1990s—that women for the first time took a prominent role both behind and in front of the camera. This dissertation argues that such shifts are due to “factionalism” within the Islamic Republic, shifts internal to the film industry and the emergence of a group of highly educated film production teams, in addition to the variety of ways in which women were able to exercise more agency in the film industry. One trope around which this shift occurs is that of the “veil” as a technique and metaphor for social practice in representation. Employing feminist film theory tools, a number of representative female-centric films from this period are analyzed, focusing on their cultural, political, and cinematic contexts. Examining the films with respect to the representation of women, the research relies on textual analysis as its basic methodology. Along with the textual analysis, interviews conducted with filmmakers and people active in the industry also help to map the films in the socio-political context in which they were produced.