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Pak, Nacim (2009) Shi'ism and film: Religion and spirituality in Iranian cinema. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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What constitutes a serious engagement of religion and spirituality in film remains a contentious topic in Western academia. The small body of literature dedicated to the study of religion and spirituality in Iranian cinema focuses largely on propaganda films exalting the Islamic Republic and its aspirations. My research examines ways in which other films participate and engage with Shi'i expressions of Islam. I have explored official and popular discourses within Shi'ism, and applied a philosophical framework to understand other engagements of film with religion. Moreover, I have situated the films I study within the larger socio-historical context of Iran and thereby located filmic discourses within a much longer-standing and continuing discourse on religion and spirituality in Iranian cinema. I study the various debates by Iranian academics, clerics and critics on film's compatibility or incongruity with religion and spirituality, and examine their relevance to the study of religion and spirituality in Iranian cinema. I examine films that debate contemporary official and formalistic religious discourses, drawing parallels between these films and the discourses of Iranian intellectuals, and thereby situating them within these wider debates. In order to demonstrate the more mystical approaches within Shi'a Islam, I explore how Majidi's films lend themselves to Sufi interpretations. I also analyse how Kiarostami's films are poetic philosophies that invite viewers to rethink their existing ideas, thoughts and beliefs, be they rooted in scientific or theological approaches to religion. Finally, I demonstrate how cinema acts as a reservoir for popular, yet threatened traditions such as ta 'ziyeh, which faces increased pressure from both intellectuals and clerics. As a medium that has received little serious attention in the analysis and understanding of Shi'i religious expressions and articulations, my study situates film as a valid and important tool in understanding many of the current debates within Iran.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:15

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