The Iran Colloquium presents:
Golbarg Rekabtalaei, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern History, Seton Hall University: “Cosmopolitan Identity, National Sovereignty: A Cinematic History of Iran.”
Much of the literature on early cinema in Iran asserts that there were religious objections to films from very early on, arising from cinema’s potential in simulating acts of creation by remaking images of real life, and/or by propagating idolatry.
Following such claims, then, these narratives deem early cinematic practices as unpopular, and the enterprise as non-existent in the first three decades of the twentieth century. Paying close attention to the cinematic activities of everyday people in Tehran, and rereading sources from the first few decades of the twentieth century, however, beg us to consider a different standpoint. Despite conventional arguments, in my book, I demonstrate the acceptance and well-reception of cinema by the urban public. Validating and endorsing the pedagogical attributes of cinema, cosmopolitan cinema operators and owners legitimized this communication medium technology at a time of governmental decentralization and cinematic precarity.
Operated by people from a variety of ethnic, religious, and linguistic persuasions, who were in dialogue with global cinematic developments and national discourses, cinema was promoted as an educational tool in the service of the nation. Legitimized as a means to enlighten the masses and therefore entangled in nationalist discourses, movie theatres and other film screening settings including, hotels, guest-lodges, coffee shops, and conference venues, grew significantly in number in the first three decades of the twentieth century. The increase in the number of such public spaces and interactions in these sites of sociability changed the fabric of Tehran, turning the city into an urbanite cosmopolitan centre.