Volume 94, No.5, September-October 2008

In Focus

On Camera

In the 1970s, British feminist scholars contended that almost all films were dominated by the "male gaze," with camera angles calculated to "fetishize the female body." Negar Mottahedeh, an assistant professor of literature who has studied the history of Iranian film, argues in a new book due out in November that the country's post-1979 theocratic government unintentionally succeeded in turning that convention on its head. The government's modesty laws required women to be veiled at all times in public—including in movies—thereby breaking the male gaze and, ironically, turning the national cinema into what she calls "a woman's cinema." She also notes that under the Ayatollah Khomeini's rule, many men who had previously worked in the national film industry were forced out as part of a cultural "purification," leaving spots open on film crews for women.

Negar Mottahedeh
Bill Bamberger