A film by Ehsan Khoshbakht
2020, 83 minutes
No. 296

Sex, drugs, rock 'n roll — Iranian style! A personal journey through the history of Iranian popular cinema before the revolution and the world of “filmfarsi”, a term referring to the rowdy and melodramatic genre films made from the early 1950s to 1979.

Filmfarsi provides a fascinating archaeology of “the biggest secret in cinema history” (The Guardian) — a compelling window into a lost past. This documentary uncovers
a cinema of titillation, action and big emotions, which 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.

Four years in the making, Filmfarsi features clips from more than 100 films, almost all banned in their country of production.

"Reminiscent of archival artist Bill Morrison’s Dawson City: Frozen Time, a doc constructed from damaged reels of early North American silent films, Filmfarsi projects the fragility of cinema’s format, and the ideas it carries, against volatile conditions. In the former, it’s a combustible silver nitrate base, in the latter, a combustible political climate." - Hyperallergic

"For the past four years, filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht has been unearthing a long lost cinematic history of film stars from the Middle East.... and 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."Sight & Sound

"As a long standing admirer of the New Iranian Cinema, I often wondered about its popular predecessor. Ehsan Khoshbakht has finally opened up this story. His essayistic, meditative and cinephile analysis celebrates an unashamedly exploitative genre, steeped in sex and violence; Filmfarsi very usefully locates this crazy cinema within the Iranian popular and political culture of its time, and also allows it to find a place in the wider context of World Cinema." - Laura Mulvey

"Khoshbakh’s deeply personal film is a comprehensive and expansive examination of an obscure subgenre of Iranian cinema, something that inadvertently provides a whirlwind history of pre-revolutionary Iran and analysis of the country’s fractured national psyche." - Cinema Escapist