On 19 August 1978, hundreds of Rex cinema patrons in Abadan, Iran were killed by arson. The drama marked a key moment in the Iranian Revolution and the end of a flourishing film industry which since then has virtually been erased from collective memory.
The often slapdash but super popular films, jokingly termed 'filmfarsi' by a critic, with their stereotypical characters, melodramatic plots, seductive women and campy song and dance routines, provided a sensual alternative to the official image of Iran disseminated by the Shah's regime on state TV. This commercial cinema also bred filmmakers such as Samuel Khachikian and the later New Wave directors Masoud Kimiai and Abbas Kiarostami.
Most of the films only survived the 1978-1979 revolutionary iconoclasm thanks to illegal VHS copies, from which filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht has compiled a fascinating history of Iran between 1953 and 1979: a country confused about its identity, caught between optimism and disillusion.