Great Cinema and Times of Trauma

Hamid Dabashi discusses director Jafar Panahi and Iranian cinema with Asia Society's La Frances Hui on Mar. 4, 2011. (8 min., 37 sec.)

NEW YORK, March 4, 2011 – At the screening of Crimson Gold (2003), part of the 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, spoke about the recent sentence Panahi received from the Iranian government: a six-year jail term and a 20-year ban on making films.

The official charges against Panahi accused him of subverting national security by making a film related to the anti-government Green Movement that arose in response to Iran's 2009 Presidential elections. Nor was that all: as Dabashi explained, the director was further accused of attempting to make a film in his prison cell, "in his imagination."

Speaking of the resilience and creativity of Iranian filmmakers like Panahi, Dabashi drew parallels with other great film movements such as Italian Neorealism, the German New Wave of the 1970s, and the French New Wave of a decade earlier. In his view, great cinema emerges time and again as a reaction to social and political trauma. “Good cinema, not only in Iran, … doesn’t come in spite of bad circumstances but because of bad circumstances." Dabashi also called on ordinary citizens to voice outrage surrounding Panahi’s sentence.

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