Ever since the Qajar ruler Mozaffar al-Din Shah ordered the court photographer to bring a film projector from France to Iran, cinema has played a growing role in Iranian culture. From 1931 until 1979 Iran was one of the leading film-producing countries of the Middle East, with the production of more than 1,100 films.
The Revolution caused a sudden standstill in film production, but the new Islamic government soon came to understand that film was a powerful tool for propaganda. In 1983 the Farabi Film Foundation was established in order to revive the Iranian cinema.
Today, the Iranian film industry is booming again. Hundreds of films are made every year, varying from commercial comedies and action movies to independent art-house films. In recent years Iranian independent films have also reached large Western audiences and have won major international film prizes. Before being screened publicly all films are scrutinized by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance (Ershad). Many socio-critical films that have reached audiences abroad have not been shown in Iran.
Iran, along with China, was praised as one of the best exporters of cinema in the 1990s. Some critics now rank Iran as the world’s most important national cinema, artistically, with a significance that invites comparison to Italian neo-realism and similar movements in past decades. Various international film festivals have honoured Iranian cinema in the last twenty years. World-renowned Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke and German filmmaker Werner Herzog, along with many film critics from around the world, have praised Iranian cinema as one of the world’s most important artistic cinemas.
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