On witnessing : postwar cinema in Iran and Lebanon
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This dissertation examines the particularly dynamic postwar cinema of Iran and Lebanon (1988-2007). Through a comparative approach, I consider the cinematic narratives that emerged from this critical period of national reconstruction in these two Middle Eastern countries. I argue that the precarious condition of the postwar, globalizing period allowed the untold stories of class and gender for instance, to appear from within the fabric of the discourse of war storytelling in particular ways. By comparing these two contexts I am able to draw from a shared visuality, and specifically the visual trope of the martyr that was popularized in Iran and Lebanon in the war periods. In Chapter One I trace the formidable production of the visual rhetoric of war in Iran and Lebanon through posters and cinema. In Chapter Two I highlight the emergence of an auteur filmmaking of the globalizing period in the Middle East, which emphasized the instability of representation and ‘true’ witnessing. In Chapter Three, I argue that an aesthetics of performing witnessing illuminated the class issues troubling cities like Tehran and Beirut. Finally, in Chapter Four I show how the generic conventions of popular genres like comedy and musical allowed for otherwise controversial social issues to be articulated in war films.