Art And Culture

War Cinema Legacy Moves Forward

War Cinema Legacy Moves Forward War Cinema Legacy Moves Forward

This week marked the anniversary of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war – known in Iran as ‘Sacred Defense’. Among all the arts devoted to depicting the large-scale sacrifice and loss of lives during the imposed eight-year conflict, one art stands out and that is ‘cinema’.  War cinema was born with the beginning of the war in 1980. However, it took many years until it found its identity. In the past decades, the film industry produced many war films and in this genre, the war has often been portrayed as glorious and a defense of territorial integrity rooted in nationalism and Islamic Revolution ideals.

During the war and in its immediate aftermath, the majority of movies centered on the battle that took place on the front – whether on land, at sea or air combat. But once the war ended and troops (including voluntary Basij militia) returned home, the films began to focus largely on the post-war years and social issues that war veterans had to deal with upon their reintegration into society. Among them were movies like ‘The Glass Agency’ which took the country by storm in 1998, ‘From Karkheh to the Rhine’ (1993), Scent of Yusef’s Shirt (1996), The Red Ribbon (1999), Low Heights (2002), and In Purple (2004)  all directed by Ebrahim Hatamikia, reports honaronline.

 Duality of Life and Death

Hatamikia’s cinema tackles the duality of life and death and the mourning process. Images of missing husbands, children or brothers and those for whom there is no actual burial haunt his films, conjuring up leitmotifs such as traumatic absence, anxiety, guilt, nostalgia and exile.

But war cinema is continuing its impact and creativity even two and a half decades after the conflict ended. While war cinema went through a sluggish period in late 90’s, it revived in the following decade with new genres. Iranian Art News Agency has published a short review of war films made during the past 3 years. The recent movies mostly break away from the traditional themes and delve deeper into the far-reaching consequences of the war and its effects on individuals from every walk of life – at times in seemingly trivial ways.

‘Shoore Shirin’ (Shirin’s Delirium), and ‘Bullet Proof’ were two motion pictures that opened in theaters in 2011. ‘Bullet Proof’ which won Fajr Festival’s Crystal Seemorgh for the best screenplay as well as the Honorary Diploma for the best picture, features the story of a middle-aged man who smuggles contraband music albums and videos into the country and suddenly finds out he has a brain tumor and has only two more months to live. The movie is in many ways similar to the classic ‘Leili Is With Me’ which in a comic way, attracted many moviegoers to war cinema.

 Movie Drama

‘Kissing the Face of the Moon’, is another movie made by Homayoon As’adian that hit the screen in 2011. An engaging movie filled with motherly affection that centers on the lives of two mothers living next door to each other, awaiting the return of their sons from the battleground. This drama injected a breath of fresh air into the war movie genre and brought a handful of prizes for its makers at the Fajr annual cinematic event.

‘The Little Hero’ directed by Sadegh Daghighi hit the theaters in 2012; the protagonist is a teenage boy in the early months of the war and the invasion of Khorrmashar in southwest Iran by Iraqi forces. The teenager is held captive by Iraqis and mistreated but somehow manages to win their trust and as a result helps Iranian fighters with food, weaponry and important intelligence.  

‘Days of Our Lives’ was shown at the Fajr Festival in 2011 and won more than half of the Crystal Seemorghs. It portrays the direct confrontation of war and emotions and had a good box-office sale and won the acclaim of critics.


‘Queen’ which also featured at Fajr Festval was branded as an anti-war movie, but its director maintained that “it’s a war movie about a common war-time experience.”

However, the one movie that gained its place among the audience was ‘Track 143’, made by Narges Abyar in 2014. It won the Crystal Seemorgh for the best movie as well as the distinguished honor of becoming the favorite movie of the fans. The film chronicles the tale of a woman in her everyday anguish, waiting for the return of her son from the front.  

Last but not least, is the movie ‘Che’ which saw the return of Hatamikia to the scene. Hatamikia who had focused on social issues in his recent films, captures two days of Mostafa Chamran’s life, the legendary war hero. The movie received lots of attention and was awarded prizes.

With movies made in the last three years, a new wave of war cinema was heralded and audiences will wait to see the new aspects and untold stories of the war being told in striking, novel ways.