The Social Life of Films: An Alternative Perspective on Informal Film Circulation


by Mahsa Salamati


This podcast is of a seminar presented by Mahsa Salamati at UNSW Australia for SSSN on 26th April 2017. Mahsa’s paper is followed by a question and answer session facilitated by Melanie Robson and involving the audience present on the day.

Mahsa Salamati is a Ph.D. candidate in Film Studies at the University of New South Wales. Her thesis focuses on different aspects of transnational circulation of Iranian cinema since the 1979 revolution. Her research covers various fields including national cinemas, cultural policies, film festivals, and informal media circulation.

Complex transnational and local factors have resulted in the emergence and expansion of alternative channels of film circulation all around the globe. What is significant about these alternative channels is not just that they are illegal channels for the circulation of the same material, but the ways they sometimes transform the films into culturally and politically different materials. Different channels of circulation add different layers of politics and meaning to the films. Such meanings would have been irrelevant if the films were circulated through formal channels.

This paper uses a case study of Jafar Panahi’s This is not a Film (In Yek Film Nist, 2011) and his other works since he was banned from filmmaking in 2008. It demonstrates how the juxtaposition of different contextual elements such as circulatory dynamics of the films, the filmic text and the constant presence of the filmmaker in his films create what Michel Foucault calls a heterotopic space. I argue that it would be simplistic to consider the production and circulation of Panahi’s films as being subversive of the Iranian state as they have always remained connected to that space. Nevertheless, the combination of all these factors create a space that can result in a temporary destabilisation of the dominant order.

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