The Iranian New Wave refers to a movement in Iranian cinema. It started in the late 1960s and flourished in the 1970s.

It was followed by a related but distinguishable movement called Iranian New Wave due to its resemblance to European new waves.

The Iranian new wave was a period of emergence for Iranian cinema, starting with the release of The Cow by Dariush Mehrjui and The Brick and the Mirror by Ebrahim Golestan in 1969.

The movement brought social realism to Iranian cinema; before this, movies were hugely influenced by classical Persian theatre and focused on melodrama.

Let’s take a look.

Iranian New Wave Cinema

What Is Iranian New Wave Cinema?

Iranian New Wave Cinema was a movement in Iranian cinema, starting in the mid-1960s and continuing through to the end of the 20th century.

It is widely seen as a golden age in modern Persian cinema, when Iranian cinema took the lead of the Middle Eastern film industry.

During this period a number of producers, directors, and actors made films that are now regarded as masterpieces of world cinema.

The period also saw the proliferation of Western genres like action films and thrillers and a resurgence of post-revolutionary Iran’s traditional film genres such as comedy and melodrama (previously barred by censors).

Its directors are also interested in using film to explore issues of class and gender identity.

Iranian New Wave movies often examine the lives of working-class people as they navigate social restrictions.

Distinguished by their quiet observation of daily life and their concern for the marginalized, these films are also noted for leaving interpretations open to individual viewers.

Iranian Culture – New Wave In Iranian Cinema

The filmmakers were influenced byItalian neorealism and French New Wave.

Their vision was supported by Iran’s then-shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who supported Social Realism against the wishes of some filmmakers like Sohrab Shahid Saless.

Political change after the 1979 Revolution had a profound influence on filmmaking in Iran:“Freed from the immediate pressure of having to put out propaganda movies for an authoritarian regime, directors from Iran’s so-called second generation began to explore aspects of their country’s history that had never been depicted in a cinematic context before.”

In recent years, a new wave of Iranian films has emerged. This is due to the easing of restrictions after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005. Films are no longer censored, and have started to tackle a broader range of themes.

Iranian films have become part of a global cinema movement that includes the Czech New Wave, French New Wave, German Expressionism and Polish Film School.

This movement began in the early 1990s with directors such as Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf returning from exile in Europe and bringing international acclaim for their work.

The most prominent examples of this later era of the Iranian New Wave include:

Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry (1997),Makhmalbaf’s Kandahar (2001),Rakhshan Bani-Etemad Under the Skin of the City (1998),Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven (1997) and The Color of Paradise (1999),Bahman Ghobadi’s Turtles Can Fly (2004), andJafar Panahi’s The Circle (2000) and Offside.

The Beginning Of Iranian New Wave Cinema

 It is characterized by new concepts of artistic expression through cinematic techniques, such as the psychological realist approach of Iranian neorealism, but it also incorporates elements of Eastern art cinema and Western film noir.

It is considered a turning point in Iran’s cinema, because of its controversial topics, innovative techniques, and showing various aspects of life and modernity in the 1960s.The era was marked by a feeling of political and social freedom among the youths of Iran and their bold criticism of dominant ideologies.

It was a period of transition from traditional cinema to an intelligent and subtle type of film making. Most films from this era are still highly regarded.

The Iranian New Wave brought Iranian cinema onto the international scene for the first time. The films were well received in the major European film festivals,however, they were banned in their home country due to their critical portrayal of society.

The wave was followed by the 1979 revolution which brought a sudden end to this flourishing era.

Precursors To Iranian New Wave Cinema

The value of Iranian New Wave was not limited to the box office figures or the critics’ consensus: it changed the way the new generation looked at Iranian cinema. The directors of the movement produced what is arguably one of the most original and influential national cinemas of the late 20th century, with a number of films that rank among the greatest in world cinema.

Taste for auteurism and formal experimentation was first introduced to Iranian audiences through a series of critically acclaimed international art films screened in custom-built theaters in Tehran and other cities in the 1960s and early 1970s.

These films were shown as part of a program that had been designed by young, educated cinephiles (bazaaris) to cater to their tastes. In an attempt to introduce artistic, intellectual, European-style experimental films to Iranian audiences, these cinephiles organized traveling film festivals that showcased unusual narrative features from around the world.

These festivals featured many innovative works by some highly regarded European and American directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Luis Buñuel and Samuel Fuller. They also featured works by lesser known revolutionary directors from Eastern Bloc countries such as Poland.

History Of Iranian New Wave Cinema

The movement has been defined by The Village Voice as “perhaps the single most influential movement in non-Western cinema,”and was a major trendsetter among European art cinemas of the era.

The term New Wave is not limited to Iranian cinema, but is also used to refer to new wave cinemas in general, such as the Turkish New Wave. However, there are differences among these new wave cinemas.

The movement began in 1964 with Yasujiro Ozu’s film Marriage Story (Japanese: 結婚物語, Hepburn: Kekkon monogatari), which was rediscovered after it was banned for its criticism of modern Japanese family life.This led to a series of other films produced in Japan with similar aesthetics.

The Japanese New Wave saw the appearance of more overtly political films that took on contemporary social issues and influenced later directors in their innovations. Other national cinemas also developed a “new wave” around this time.

Essential Filmmakers Of Iranian New Wave Cinema

It is widely seen as a golden age in Iranian cinema, when a group of young film-makers led a “renaissance” through their thoughtful films about Iran and Iranians.

Taste of Cherry (1997) is for me one of the most essential, beautiful and touching movies ever made. Its simplicity is so great that it can leave you stunned, with tears in your eyes. I would recommend this movie to everyone, because it is a different way to look at Death.

This movie makes you think about what you would do if you realized that you have only a day or two left to live. My favorite scene from Taste of Cherry is when the main character, Mr Badii (Homayoun Ershadi), who has only two days left to live, goes to see his friend Mr Beizaad (Farshid Sami).

The conversation between Badii and Beizaad really gets to the heart of how people deal with death and how each person’s attitude about death defines their life; for those that do not understand this concept, this scene makes it very clear.

Essential Films Of Iranian New Wave Cinema

The term “New Iranian Cinema” is primarily used to describe films that have a strong social and political context, whether dealing with life in Iran under its Islamic government, or its relations with the west.

This type of film is different from the commercial cinema that was produced in large numbers during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.Transition period – 2001 .Many factors have contributed to the flourishing of New Iranian Cinema in recent years: increasing censorship, restrictions on mixing between sexes, and an overall improvement in technical quality.

Since 2000, many New Iranian Films have won awards at prestigious international festivals like Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival and Berlin Film Festival.The first movement in Iranian cinema began during the 1950s, when filmmakers connected with the country’s Free Cinema movement, including directors like Forugh Farrokhzad and Dariush Mehrjui who made films with socially-oriented messages.


The second phase of Iranian cinema began in 1969 after the closure of the National Film School.

The House Is Black (Forough Farrokhzad – 1962)


The House Is Black is a collection of poems and short stories by Forough Farrokhzad, an Iranian poet, writer, translator and film director. First published in 1962, it was her first book and remains her most famous and successful work.

The House Is Black was Farrokhzad’s first collection of poetry. Written in the 1950s, it was considered too controversial to be published at the time.

The works in the book are not necessarily written in chronological order.There are nine poems each reflecting a different theme or event in Farrokhzad’s life which she uses to provide a commentary on women’s lives in Iran under the rule of Reza Shah Pahlavi and his son Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

The poem “I Am Iran” serves as a clarion call for Iran to free itself from authoritarian rule, while “Scent of Apples” alludes to the Persian tradition of hospitality, the poem “Bread” reflects on.

This is a very short excerpt from the well-known poem by Forough Farrokhzad. It is a very beautiful poem and one of my favorites that  i have read in Persian.

Brick And Mirror (Ebrahim Golestan – 1964)

Brick and Mirror is a 1964 Iranian documentary written and directed by Ebrāhim Golestān. It was the first Iranian feature film to be filmed in color and the first about the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

The film is about the daily lives of Iranians before the revolution, focusing on contrasting life in rural Iran with that in Tehran. The film follows several individuals from different strata of society.

 It is a cinematic poem about a country and its people, as seen through the eyes of a poet-filmmaker. It offers neither a political analysis nor social commentary, but rather an emotional portrait of the Iranian people at a specific point in time.

It shows their hopes, aspirations and fears, as well as the contradictions they live with in pre-revolutionary Iran.The film employs several cinematic techniques such as slow motion, split screen, black screen, flashback and superimposition to create visual metaphors that mirror some of the conflicts between tradition and modernity in Iranian society.

The film opens with a black screen as Golestān recites an ode to cinema before segueing into scenes of rural life. The film is part of a cycle of experimental shorts inspired by modernist art that Golestan made in Iran between 1960 and 1964.

Other films in this series include The Song of the Night (1962), The Cycle (1963) and The Masks (1964).

The Cow (Dariush Mehrjui – 1969

The Cow (Persian: Gozareshgar) is a 1969 film by Dariush Mehrjui about a man who impersonates an animal in order to gain access to his estranged wife. It was the first Iranian film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

The film’s director, Dariush Mehrjui, used this film as an opportunity to delve into some of the concerns he had been exploring in his more contemplative films such as The Pear Tree (1969) and The Traveler (1970).These films were often concerned with existential issues and the purpose of life.

In The Cow, he explores these same issues through comedy, using slapstick humor as well as absurdism. As in many other films of this period, there are clear references to traditional Persian poetry and literature, which Mehrjui brings together with Western influences to create a uniquely Iranian form of cinematic expression.

Importance Of Iranian New Wave Cinema

There is a list of 10 influential Iranian new wave films. These films are not just an important part of Iranian cinematic history, but also have a rightful place amongst the greatest films of all time.

A Separation (2011) directed by Asghar Farhadi was an Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film in 2012. The film is about a married couple who are going through a divorce.

 They have to decide whether to send their young daughter to live with the girl’s grandparents, or leave her with her mother.

Ahmad’s Notebook (2006) directed by Hossein Shahabi is one of the most controversial films made during the New Wave era. It is set in Iran against the backdrop of the Iraq war and tells the story of Ahmad, a young man who keeps a diary during his last year at school.

In it, he records his feelings toward his teacher, toward himself, and toward his family. 

Ahlaam Street (2009) directed by Jamshid Mahmoudi is set in Tehran in 1958, just before the Islamic Revolution.

It tells the story of two middle class families and their relationships with each other through the eyes of two young girls.

Iranian New Wave CinemaTheory

The Iranian New Wave is a blanket term for the Iranian cinema in the era from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, which are characterized by new ideas and interpretations in cinema, commonly associated with Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup (1966), Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev (1966).The Iranian New Wave was not restricted to Iran. 

It also spread to other countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Pakistan.

All these countries had social, political and cultural elements which were necessary for a movement to take place. Although there are many similarities between these works they also have significant differences; each director was an individual with his own style, themes, and messages.

The films of this period are characterized by a minimalist style that attempts to capture the “essence” of characters and situations; they are shot in long takes, often feature static camera work, with soundtracks often composed of diegetic sounds only (with little to no musical score). In contrast to conventional Hollywood movies of the time, which were often shot in a series of short cuts and on studio sets using backdrops for locations, these films broke with convention by using location shooting and real locations.

The End Of Iranian New Wave Cinema

No one knows who coined the term “Iranian New Wave.” Perhaps it was a critic or film scholar; perhaps it was a filmmaker.

It’s hard to say for certain, because the idea of an Iranian New Wave has been around for more than 20 years before there was any such thing as blogs, and nearly 20 more before the Internet became widespread. In the latter half of the 1990s, Iran was going through a distinct cultural renaissance in cinema, music and art.

It was like a second Iranian Renaissance of fine arts that arose in the first decade of the 20th century. Iran’s New Wave filmmakers were inspired by European masters like Michelangelo Antonioni, Jean-Luc Godard, Stanley Kubrick and François Truffaut; they were also influenced by their predecessors in Iranian cinema like Abbas Kiarostami, Dariush Mehrjui, Mohsen Makhmalbaf and other Iranian directors.

In this article, I want to explore how these two different movements contributed to Iranian New Wave Cinema and compare them with each other bringing out their similarities and differences.

The first movement that began in early 1920s was a literary movement (Neo-romanticism).

The second movement that took place in 1990s is called “Iranian new wave.

Iranian New Wave Cinema – Wrapping Up

The Iranian New Wave was a turning point in Iranian cinema. It changed the course of Iranian cinema and revived it after years of stagnation.

During this time, many new talents appeared in Iranian cinema and they changed the face of Iranian cinema.We have talked about how the movement started and some of its features. As you know, there are three directors who are prominent members of this movement: Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Jafar Panahi. 

Each one is unique in his own way, but they all had their own role in reviving Iranian cinema. In fact, they changed the history of world cinema as well. 

Abbas Kiarostami is an important figure in modern world cinema whose influence on international arthouse cinema can be compared to Ingmar Bergman’s influence on American arthouse cinema or Federico Fellini’s influence on European arthouse cinema. 

He is recognized as one of the most important figures in world cinema. His films have been nominated for Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival several times and he won it twice. He is also famous for his minimalist style of filmmaking that has influenced many modern directors including Wes Anderson.