Friday, April 23, 2010

Tahmineh Milani, the Female Voice of Iran

Iranian film director, screenwriter and producer, Tahmineh Milani, is a good example of auteur, especially for Iranian cinema and Iranian people alike. Speaking out and being a driving cinematic force in Iran, Milani has dealt with arrests, harsh criticisms, and the like just for putting movies together about women in Iranian society. According to, Milani is “known for touching controversial and sensitive issues, including women's rights and the 1979 Iranian Revolution,” while a “majority of [her] films involve brave women who suffer under oppressive regimes.” Absolute Astronomy also notes: Milani believes that Iran's most-pressing problem is an identity crisis, claiming that Iranian men and women lead double lives. Faced with public extremism, each is forced to adopt separate lifestyles for the home and the public eye.

If Debra Zimmerman and her company Women Make Movies were to recognize Milani and her style in filmmaking, it would truly be a match made in heaven. Both women deal with issues, lives and portrayals of women, though in different societal settings, and their struggles to overcome certain oppressions by male figures in their lives. (This is not to say that Zimmerman has never heard of Milani, but if she was recognized by Zimmerman, then the aforementioned would be the case.) Although not clearly stated in print—and with YouTube showing videos without English subtitles about Milani—we see Milani’s influence and approaches to making films come from what she sees in the world around her and in the enriromnent she grew up in. Her foot in the door—being married to actor and producer Mohammad Nikbin (—is also another major stepping stone to her success, where logically speaking she would have some kind of access and help in film production and knowing the right people. Even though her studies focused on architecture in college, she managed to get into film production by working next to a director, and she then found her knack and passion, which she used to her great advantage: producing films about oppressed women and giving them a voice.

According to, Milani focused on AIDS and TV and tied the two together to bring awareness about AIDS to the Iranian peoples while pitching to a grander audience than that of the “limited” number that go to the cinema. In an article in, her passion was always in film and cinema and women’s advocacy, which is why her success has shot up significantly. Her interest in educating about AIDS awareness could only bring her more respect as a female director in Iran.

Milani’s films have broken many Iranian rules (such as how women and men should appear on screen, how women should behave, etc.) which has lead to turmoil and the arresting of Milani, but this has definitely increased her credibility, worth, and recognition as a director. Her films have given viewers a temporary escape from the real world. As Bell Hooks put it in Making Movie Magic: “Most of us go to movies to enter a world that is different from the one we know are most comfortable with.” (pp. 2) Although Milani’s films did stir trouble with her government, she did at the same time provide audiences with some kind of fantasy world of women standing up for what they believe in, women expressing themselves, women having desires and women showing themselves without garments or restrictions. Yet, despite all this outspokenness, Milani was still taken to jail for being very expressive through her movies and standing up for women in Iran (

What we can draw from Milani is that she has gained strength and provided a voice for women in Iran and has created films which touched on taboo topics in Iran, especially progression of women and their rights and women coming a long way away from male control and false beliefs of the image of a woman. Yes she has dealt with harsh criticisms and government disapproval, and went behind bars for her beliefs, thus begging what won’t kill you will only make you stronger. Her achievements have clearly made her a household name in Iran, and she has definitely been put up there with famous Iranian male directors. There seems to be nothing potentially lethal standing in Milani’s way.

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