The 'Hidden Violence' in Iranian Society

Jafar Panahi's 'Crimson Gold' as social critique

Still from Jafar Panahi's 2003 film Crimson Gold.

NEW YORK, March 4, 2011 — At a screening of Crimson Gold (2003), part of Asia Society's film series A Tribute to Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi at Asia Society New York, Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature of Columbia University, addressed questions about the economic disparities depicted in the film.

A film about a pizza delivery man who is also a veteran of Iran's devastating eight-year war with Iraq, Crimson Gold tracks a downward spiral into violence as viewers follow the protagonist's almost-daily round of humiliation. Laying out the history of economic disparity since the war, Dabashi addressed the underlying discontent in Iranian society. "The source of violence, namely the revolution and the war, is hidden. But you see the manifestation of violence in society, in body language, in the way people behave toward each other."

Commenting on the real-life pizza delivery man who plays the central character, Dabashi said, "He's cast perfectly. He has this blank, poker face, and he doesn't talk too much... There's a hidden violence in him that is reflected throughout the film."

Dabashi praised filmmaker Panahi, who is deeply concerned with social issues and problems, for balancing his artistic vision and his responsibility as a citizen.

Video: Highlights from the discussion (10 min., 30 sec.)

Watch a trailer for Crimson Gold here.

Asia Society's Tribute to Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi series is part of Creative Voices of Islam in Asia, a three-year initiative made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.