Book Excerpt: In the Time of Kiarostami: Essays on Iranian Cinema by Godfrey Cheshire | Parts

A few days ago, I heard the opposite view when a Dutch journalist told me that he was at a press conference where a reporter from time asked Iran’s president, the brilliant and media-savvy Hashemi Rafsanjani, what happened to this “Death to America” ​​stuff that is still part of Iran’s celebration of its Revolution. Rafsanjani reportedly smiled regretfully and said the government had nothing to do with it, it was just the strong emotions of the people.

My own impression is that public anti-Americanism at this point is mainly pro forma, and that form is very old. In fact, it was just 18 years ago when the US was seen as supporting a Shah that many Iranians wanted ousted, as it is now 12 years ago when we were seen as supporting Saddam Hussein. (you remember our good friend Saddam) in the horrific, massively destructive eight-year war fought by Iraq and Iran. But much has changed in the last decade, even in the last two or three years, and now there are signs that official Iranian thinking is moving closer to a friendly view of the man on the street—a change that is not very capable. difference, of course, unless our policy makers are sharp enough to take advantage of it.

An obvious reason for this turn of events is that the Islamic Republic is no longer struggling to emerge, or to overcome the onslaught of a heavily armed neighbor. It is at peace, increasingly prosperous and full of the kind of strong self-confidence that comes with enduring enduring hardship. In its government, nuanced pragmatism is rapidly outstripping the ideological purism that used to define everything. An Iranian acquaintance, however, offered me the view that not all recent changes can be traced only to Iran’s own experience.

“The collapse of the Soviet Union made them look at things differently,” he said of Iran’s leaders. ” They were really surprised. They saw that the Soviet Union did not lose the military war, it lost the cultural one. So they began to see that that is what Iran is with the US-not a war but a competition that is coming in culture.

What is an angle as to why this regime takes movies so seriously, and why the only American film critic here at the moment needs a surprising number of local celebrities (one night I was interviewed many times I told someone how I feel Sharon Stone) as well as a constant sense of fascination with the environment. Movies, after all, are only the tip of the cultural iceberg. When we got back on the bus after leaving the Islamic Revolution Day march, my adrenaline still pumping, I started noticing graffiti on the walls of Tehran. Besides scrawls in Persian script, there are some in English, mostly the names of rock bands: MEGADETH and METALLIKA [sic]and my favorite of all, IRAN MAIDEN.

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