Archival Re-appropriation and Discontents of Self-cine-identification in Iranian Cinema

Hossein (Hemen) Heidari


The indexical interpretation of the archival footages and historical theme of Mohsen Makhmalbaf's Once Upon a Time, Cinema (Iran 1991) has inspired many studies to read the movie as a semi-historical homage to (Iranian) cinema from 1900. However, this article questions the archival footages and cinematic strategies of the movie not as indexes/evidences of/from the past rather as organs of a crisis in remembering and forgetting in relation to the official power and the filmmaker’s career. In order to give a character to this crisis, this paper employs the notion of self-image or self-identification of the artist and the official power through cinema and archival images. This cine-memory crisis is traced in three overlapping forms of the artistic memory, the memory of power (both the post-revolution 1979 and the Qajar in 1900), and the memory of the religion (Islam). This article argues that beyond the represented political motifs and historical indexicality in the movie, the archival footages and history of cinema underline and perpetuate struggles in self-imaging/imagining with the medium of cinema in Iran since 1900. This investigation helps us understand how manipulating archival footages is not an artistic narrative or homage to the past but rather a product of hardships of cinematic re-appropriation or a re-personification of ‘self’ (artistic or institutional) in the present. Furthermore, in a bigger picture, it sheds light on the internal dynamics and paradoxes in Iranian post-revolution movies which are not tangible on the screen.


archival footages; cinematic strategies, re-appropriation, Islamic Republic of Iran; cinematic self-image

DOI: 10.6092/issn.2280-9481/10536


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