No Sex, no Violence, Just Film

A. Read the text. Answer the questions given below:

Despite its severe Islamic censorship and taboos, Iranian cinema attracts a world cult following.

Imagine yourself as a filmmaker in post-revolutionary Iran. The venue for our creative labours is called The Studio of the Voice and Portrait of the Islamic Revolution of Iran.

Perhaps your cameras are out on location in the streets. Your film project has already jumped three censorship hurdles imposed by government agencies: synopsis approval, script approval and cast and crew approval.

Now all that is left is to make the film, get the Government’s final thumbs up, and be given an exhibition license. But you can’t relax for one moment. Your leading lady, should you have one, must not be a seductive beauty. Nor must there be any physical contact between male and female, even if the characters are man and wife or brother and sister. No violence, naturally. Nor can any character burst into song.

To the West, it may seem almost inconceivable that great and entertaining films could emerge from such restrictions, all put in place at different times since Iran’s Islamic revolution. Yet each year a miracle happens. Iran’s films are regularly invited to festivals, win prizes, including the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and have became a cult among cinema aficionados.

To understand this remarkable phenomenon we must backtrack to the heights of the Islamic revolution in 1978-1979. 180 cinemas around the country were burnt down during the revolution – testament to the way films had come to be seen as part of the deposed Shah’s Western leanings. Filmmakers set out into the new era timidly, afraid of treading on toes and risking punishment. Sticky areas such as religion were best avoided altogether. Women, too, were for a time thought too hot to handle. But children seemed safe, and cheap, too.

Yet there was much more than expediency involved. Making films about youngsters’ growing pains was an ideal way to do your bit for a society rebuilding itself around Muslim values.

Visually, such films tend to be as decorous and simple as their characters, far removed from Hollywood’s bedlam. And the West loves them for it.

When Iranian films first broke through internationally in the late 1960s, they seemed just one brand of exotica among many. Now they appear unique – films on a human scale, they refresh our jaded eyes.

Not that all Iranian cinema is classy enough to reach the West’s cinema festivals and art houses. They make their choice, like everyone else. And a chasm sometimes exists between films aimed at local audiences and those obviously prepared to charm outsiders.

The best have the potential to please both camps, such as The Apple about two teenage daughters kept virtual prisoners by their father.

And paranoia can still rise up among government bodies. One part of the episode film, Tales of Kish, was withdrawn from the Fajr Film Festival, Iran’s international showcase, because the 13-year-old heroine showed too much hair under her scarf.

Despite hints at thawing attitudes, an Iranian film that supinely apes Western ways is nowhere in sight. For all the chafing at individual restrictions, that must be a sign of artistic health.

B. Answer the questions:

1. Where do Iranian film makers make their films?

2. How are Iranian leading ladies different from those in Hollywood?

3. Are Iranian films popular abroad? Justify your answer.

4. Explain briefly in your own words how Iranian films are different.

5. How close are Iranian films to copying Western ones?

Behind the Camera

A. Read the text:

A lot of people are needed to make a film, as well as the actors and actresses. They are all the other people whose names appear at the beginning or end of a film. Some of them have strange-sounding jobs like ‘Best Boy’ or ‘Key Grip’. Let’s look at just some of them.

Producer – the person who chooses which film to make, who gets the money needed to make it, and who takes care of all the business problems.

Director – the person who decides how to ‘shoot’ (or film) each scene, and who controls all the actors and other people who are helping to make the film. The director is the one who shouts ‘Action!’ when he or she is ready. One piece of film which is filmed without stopping the camera is called a ‘take’.

Screenwriter – the person who writes the screenplay or script of a film. Sometimes many screenwriters are employed before a director is happy with a screenplay. And when a book is made into a film, it is not usually the writer of the book who writes the screenplay. A screenwriter is usually given this job.

Editor – the person who ‘cuts’ and then puts together the film after the filming has finished, and makes it into the final movie.

Set Designer – the person who arranges the furniture and scenery needed in the film. The designer often plans by making models of the scenery before working on the final set.

Wardrobe Designer– the person who designs or chooses the clothes that the actors wear in the film. These are often got from special companies who keep every kind of film and theatre clothes that you can think of.

Gaffer – the lights and lighting chief in the studio.

Best Boy – the Gaffer’s assistant.

Key Grip– the person who moves the camera around.

Boom Operator – the person who moves the microphone above the heads of the actors when they are speaking.

Stuntmen and stuntwomenare used when something is too difficult or too dangerous for the actor to do. Every stunt is carefully planned before filming, and must be as safe as possible. They wear the same clothes and make-up as the star and are usually filmed so that their faces are not seen clearly.

B. Answer the questions:

What do we call a person who:

1. arranges furniture and scenery;

2. designs or chooses the clothes;

3. puts together the film after the filming has finished;

4. chooses which film to make;

5. writes the script;

6. moves the camera around;

7. wears padding under their clothes so that they do not hurt themselves when they fall from something like a horse or a moving car.


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