Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Jazz Film in Iran - A First Time Retrospective

The centenary of jazz is being celebrated in a place you would least expect: Iran. 

A mini retrospective of jazz films, currently playing at the Cinematheque of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, is the first time ever in post-revolutionary Iran.

The Museum famous for its priceless collection of modernist art (including works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Pollack and many more) and also recently in the news due to cancellation of a major exhibition in Berlin, hosts a cozy, popular cinema inside its stylishly beautiful building. The cinematheque, shut down for 7 years, was reopened recently, with an array of nicely curated seasons.

Charles Mingus in All Night Long
The Jazz and Cinema show, featuring six titles, both documentary and fiction, is, in my view, quite an achievement, considering that up until 15 years ago any kind of popular music was strictly banned in Iran.

The selection, done by me, is especially designed for an audience presumably not too familiar with the subject. So I had to start with some of the ABC of jazz films: The Glenn Miller Story, Young Man with a Horn, Bird, Connection, All Night Long and Straight No Chaser.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

In these bleak, scary days of tension and mayhem, the celebration of jazz on film could remind us about never-ceasing potentials of jazz as an art form for bringing people together. While many would think that there are no two places more disparate than the US and Iran, this small programme and the enthusiasm of Tehrani film and jazz buffs cancels any such notion.


  1. Was there any other reason besides the audience's unfamiliarity or censorship behind choosing these films? I would really like to know what justifications are there for choosing "the Glenn Miller Story"?

  2. Most of them are auteur films, so is The Glenn Miller, directed by one of my favorites Anthony Mann. I wanted to show how jazz stars are interpreted by movie stars, in this case Jimmie Stewart. Finally, I wanted to include big band music too. Plus, this film can be screened in Iran without any censors, whereas, for instance, The Benny Goodman Story couldn't (lots of dance and kissing, etc.).