From the Body of Ruin to the Ruin of Body: Reading Materiality in Documentaries of the Iranian New Wave Cinema of the 60s and 70s

September 20, 2018 - 5:30pm

407 Cathedral of Learning


The Iranian New Wave, as the large body of “quality films” made before the 1979 revolution came to be known, always showed an ethnographic register. With this essay I establish a relationship between the cinematic renderings of the “ruin” and that of the “body” in the ethnographic documentaries of the New Wave. On the thematic level, a number of exemplary documentaries depicting historical ruins and excavation sites, and a group of others representing religious and “folk” practices (mourning rituals, trance practices, and pilgrimages to shrines), are taken and subjected to close formal analysis. What comes to the fore through these writerly (Barthes) textual analyses are the pro-filmic world of the ruin and the body in anguish (of disease, of disintegration, of excessive passion), the two material inventories that left their mark on the aesthetic qualities of these documentaries. This process of the materiality—in its movements, rhythms, textures, sounds, shades of color—affecting, in fact re-fashioning, the formal qualities of the film is of course what allegories are made of. 

Short Biography:

Farbod Honarpisheh is presently the Dietrich School Humanities Center Postdoctoral Fellow in Film and Media Studies. His dissertation, “Fragmented Allegories of National Authenticity: Art and Politics of the Iranian New Wave Cinema of the 1960s and 1970s,” was completed at Columbia University. He also completed at Columbia an MA degree with a thesis called “In the Labyrinth of Yeşilçam: Transient Cosmopolitanism, Passing Images of a Street, and a Theater in Istanbul.” Before that, he obtained BA and MA degrees from Concordia University. His academic publications include: “The Oriental ‘Other’ in Soviet Cinema, 1929–34”; “You Are on Indian Land: Between Borders, Styles, and Authors”; and “Koşucu’nun Tasviri: Devrim Sonrası İran Sinemasının Önemli Bır Filmine Gösterilen Tepkiler Üstüne Bir Çalişma” (“Representing The Runner: A Reception Study of a Major Film From Post-Revolutionary Iran,”). He is currently working on a monograph based on his dissertation.