“Ode au Monde”: The Emergence of Iranian New Wave Cinema and the Problematic of National Identity

By Maziyar Faridi
Submitted to Session P4988 (Anxieties, Resistances, and the Clergy in Egyptian and Iranian Film, 2017 Annual Meeting
Iranian Studies;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
The 1960s saw the emergence of several New Wave cinemas across the globe one of which belonged to Iran. From its very conception, the Iranian New Wave, through filmmakers and critics such as Férydoun Rahnéma, Farrokh Ghaffari, and Fereydoun Hoveyda, was closely affiliated with the French cinema. Nevertheless, it managed to maintain a singularly Iranian cinematic accent. The following paper focuses on the career of Férydoun Rahnéma (1930-1975)—a relatively understudied filmmaker and poet whose influence not only haunted generations of Iranian New Wave filmmakers but also captured the imagination of some of the most prominent modern Persian poets such as Ahmad Shamlou and Bijan Elahi. As a liminal figure whose life was divided between Iran and France, Persian and French, Rahnéma stood at the interstices of French and Iranian poetic-cinematic traditions. It is precisely this interstitial position that enabled him to distance himself from the political fiction of modern national identity in Iran. In doing so, he was able to reevaluate, critically, the question of national history and identity in relation to the internationalist discourses of identity. My paper is structured around two interrelated sections. The first section reflects on Rahnéma’s engagement with the poetic Red Internationalism in France, specifically his acquaintance with French modernist poet, Paul Eluard; and the second section concentrates on his films and his poetic critique of national identity. Along with the close reading of some of his French poetry and a stylistic analysis of his films, I will examine the context of the circulation of his works in France and Iran. Rahnéma’s poetry and cinema constitute a third space upon which the tension between national and transnational, singular and universal, and root identity and relational identity is played out. The central question for him is still pertinent today: how to sing a song of the world without entrusting our singularity to the oblivious hands of mondialisation?