In recent years there has been a remarkable surge in Iranian films expressing contentious issues that are otherwise difficult to discuss publicly inside the Islamic Republic of Iran - such as the role of the clergy in Iranian society. Here, Nacim Pak-Shiraz highlights how many Iranian film directors concern themselves with the content of the country's religious and historical narratives of culture and society, sparking debate about the medium's compatibility or incongruity with religion and spirituality. Shii Islam in Iranian Cinema puts the films of established masters like Abbas Kiarostami and Bahram Beyzaie and relative newcomers such as Majid Majidi, within the context of the dynamic and vibrant debates regarding the vital concepts which underpin the culture, religion and state of Iran. Pak-Shiraz analyses the ways in which religion and the sacred is depicted and alluded to in films, such as Kiarostami's The Taste of Cherry, Kamal Tabrizi's The Lizard or Majidi's The Colour of Paradise. Exploring their philosophical meanings, and tracing their roots in mysticism and Sufism, Pak-Shiraz combines both Western thought and scholarship concerning the role of religion in film, and debates amongst Iranian academics, clerics, and authorities. She thus examines the varied reactions to the ways in which religion and culture are discussed not only cinematically, but also politically, socially and philosophically. Crucially, film emerges not only as a way to encourage debate about the nature of the Islamic Republic, but also as a medium of expression through which Iranians are able to explore Shii identity. This is especially prominent as Pak-Shiraz sees the taziyeh - the oldest Islamic drama, re-enacting the martyrdom of Imam Husayn in 680 CE at Karbala - as being revolutionised and reconstituted in the modern Iranian film and other media. Shii Islam in Iranian Cinema is a ground-breaking study, not only of cinema and its role in culture and society, but of how it has become a platform and a tool for creating discussion concerning what it means to be Iranian and Muslim after almost two generations of Islamic rule. This is invaluable reading not only for students and scholars of Film Studies and contemporary Iranian cinema, but also those interested in the culture, identity and society of Iran more widely.
Shiai Islam in Iranian Cinema
Religion and Spirituality in Film