The Body Politic, Work Shop at Open City Documentary Film Festival.

9th September 2017. Mania Akbari will be in conversation with Sophie Mayer (author, Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema) and Vali Mahlouji (Iranian art curator and writer).

Throughout history, the female body, in many different shapes and forms, has been the subject of political, social, and philosophical discussions – but only more recently, from feminist angles.
Yet in the performing arts, cinema and visual arts, it is body movement that, as the artist desires, brings to life the work’s conceptual message. The dexterity of the body can be mobilized to express the power and influence of the work.However, when a government such as the Islamic theocracy in Iran considers itself as the protector of women’s bodies and identities – which in some ways has parallels with slavery – this fills the woman’s body and soul with anger and dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction and anger of women is reflected in fairly conspicuous ways in cinema, through the manner of female performances and storytelling strategies. Since ancient times, in male-authored art, the female body has been a reflection of women’s subjection to some of the most brutal abuses and aggressions in history. In our contemporary world the female body, and its needs and challenges, is emerging as a site of political discourse – defined, this time, by women artists and activists.

Mania Akbari grew up in a society characterized by patriarchy and autocracy, under a government that, based on values driven by religion and tradition, wants to control the body of a woman. This desire for control somewhat intensifies the historical aggression against the female body. In both pre- and post-revolution Iranian cinema we witness restrictions on the female body, whether used as an object of male desire in pre-revolutionary Iranian cinema, or presented in a very limited and clichéd form, as dictated by the religious laws and regulations. The hazardous history of the female body has worn out the soul and spirit of women.Yet through addressing this misrepresentation, women’s activism gains energy from discussions about civil liberties and human rights, breaking its historical silence. Yet we can see that such rage is sometimes depicted in literature, visual arts and cinema through such didactic forms as that of a dissenting stance which completely morphs into an anti-feminist and objective mode.These days we also witness works from Iran that, to compensate for the historical silence of the female body, are crying out and again presenting a woman’s body in a clichéd form as a protest against restrictions and suppressions.

At this event, we will explore the possibilities for navigating these restrictions through more complex and inventive visual forms that allow women artists to use their bodies expressively. Examining images and film clips, we will look in more detail at the reflection of the female body in cinema and visual arts, before and after the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Mania Akbari will be in conversation with Sophie Mayer (author, Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema) and Vali Mahlouji (Iranian art curator and writer).