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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Body Beautiful: Making the Figure of Women in Film, Contemplation on the Iranian New-Wave Cinema of the Past Decade


Three decades after the political revolution of 1978, the figure of the woman remains a pivotal point in the Iranian public discourse. Furthermore, with the persistent “fight for democracy” squeezing down on the geopolitical body of Iran (in Afghanistan and Iraq), “the war against terror” has once again put the condition of Iranian women firmly on the global agenda. Against this background, the emerging image of Iranian women in film has been particularly an important mediating tool for socialization of a diverse audience to contemporary gender issues, as well as creation of a spectacular model for limitations and articulations of the feminine body in Islamic Iran. This paper aims to offer an anthropological analysis of the figure of the woman as it appears in the contemporary Iranian cinema, with intended audiences both domestically and in the global market. As a critical exploration of the Iranian visual culture, this writing is enhanced by several core questions, including: How does the figure of Iranian woman resurface in cinematic productions, as a sign of social and epistemological change during the era of political reform? What idealized models of femininity and masculinity are constructed through these diverse film productions of the last decade? How does the new wave cinema in post-revolution Iran address the seemingly tenuous relationship between religiosity and piety with articulations of gender? What roles have the revitalization of women’s social movement of the past decade had on the representation of the image of Iranian women?

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