Illuminationist cinema: How Islamic mysticism inspired Morteza Avini’s Sacred Defence documentaries of the Iran–Iraq War and his attempt at constructing a film theory
Film and Screen Media, University College Cork
‘Sacred Defence cinema’ is the official title given to Iranian pro-establishment war films concerning mainly the Iran-Iraq War [1980-1988]. The most prominent figure of this filmmaking movement who both made films and wrote about them was the documentary filmmaker, Morteza Avini [1947-1993]. In his search for a new Islamic inspired cinematic language, Avini argued that Islamic mysticism could inspire a mode of filmmaking which he called ‘illuminationist cinema’. He used this term mainly in order to reflect on the filmmaking techniques he developed and used during the making of his own documentaries, but also proposed it as a filmmaking method to be adopted by other Islamic filmmakers. Avini’s early death in 1993 put a stop to his theorisation of ‘illuminationist cinema’; however, his films and his writings continue to inspire new generations of Iranian propaganda filmmakers. In this paper, by analysing Avini’s films and writings, I lay out a definition of his ‘illuminationist cinema’ and explain what aspects of Islamic mysticism inspired which filmmaking techniques developed and theorised by him.
Morteza Avini , Illuminationist cinema , Chronicle of Triumph , Iranian Sacred Defence filmmaking , War documentaries
Abbasian, K. (2023) 'Illuminationist cinema: How Islamic mysticism inspired Morteza Avini’s Sacred Defence documentaries of the Iran–Iraq War and his attempt at constructing a film theory', Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, 25, pp. 5-23. doi: 10.33178/alpha.25.01