Close Up

1 - 16 October 2021: Filmfarsi


Ehsan Khoshbakht, 2019, 83 min
Followed by Q&A session moderated by David Thompson (01/10) and Nick James (15/10)

We are delighted to welcome Ehsan Khoshbakht who will introduce is film Filmfarsi and participate in a post Q&A session (1st and 15th of October only)

Filmfarsi is Khoshbakht’s journey through the history of Iranian popular cinema before the 1979 revolution. The term “filmfarsi” refers to the rowdy and melodramatic genre films made in Iran from the early 1950s to 1979. This documentary provides a fascinating archaeology of “the biggest secret in cinema history” (Guardian) – a vibrant film culture full of song, dance and sex – and a compelling window into a lost past. Filmfarsi uncovers a cinema of titillation, action and big emotions, which also presented a troubling mirror for the country, as Iran struggled to reconcile its religious traditions with the turbulence of modernity, and the influences of the West.

"For the past four years, filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht has been unearthing a long lost cinematic history of film stars from the Middle East. In opening a Pandora’s box of Iranian popular films, Khoshbakht unlocked one of the richest film genres recorded on celluloid. Filmfarsi uncovers the cinematic and social history of Iran under the Shah, suppressed since the 1979 revolution. The world premiere of Khoshbakht’s essay film brings back a cinema of passion, horror and melodrama that was led by Iran’s most beloved actors." – Georgia Korossi, BFI

Filmfarsi was the cinema of a nation with a split personality”, says filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht in this film-critical history of Iran under the Shah. Khoshbakht’s found-footage essay film salvages low budget thrillers and melodramas suppressed following the 1979 Islamic revolution. These films defined Iranian cinema in the 1960s and '70s, when the industry shared an equal percentage of the market with the USA. Little more than VHS rips remain. There are remakes and rip-offs, even a Persian Vertigo. The often cheap, sleazy and derivative films offer an insight into Iran’s psyche. Among the scratched reels, some keystones of Iran’s extraordinary film culture emerge, too: Gheysar, whose title design was done by a young Abbas Kiarostami; the work of director Samuel Khachikian, a progenitor of Iranian noir; and The Deer, a film which more than any other symbolises the historic violent turns in Iran’s recent past. Filmfarsi presaged a revolution, and it became one of its first victims. – Yusef Sayed, London Essay Film Festival

Read Ehsan Khoshbakht's introduction "How Iran's 'filmfarsi' Remains the Biggest Secret in Cinema History"

Ehsan Khoshbakht is a London-based Iranian documentary filmmaker, film curator and writer. Ehsan's latest film, the short documentary Duke Ellington in Isfahan played at Telluride Film Festival in 2021. Architect by training, he has authored and edited numerous books on film. Ehsan is also the co-director of Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival in Bologna, Italy.