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Morteza Avini and his Chronicle of Triumph

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Morteza Avini and his Chronicle of Triumph

Panel discussion accompanied by three documentary films that will be made available 24 hours in advance of the live event.

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In the wake of the 1979 Revolution in Iran, the new Islamic rulers aimed for an independent domestic cinema, with Islamic and educational content, in service of the hegemonisation of their ideology. As a result, many young non-professional Islamic revolutionaries began to make their own state-funded ideological films. Morteza Avini (1947-1993) was one of those young revolutionaries who mainly made documentaries related to the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). He became one of the most influential filmmakers and the only theorist of a film movement concerned with the war, officially known as the Sacred Defence Cinema.

Avini’s death by landmine in 1993 - while making a documentary in the former war zones - officially elevated him to the level of a “martyr”, and his films to the level of high spiritual quality. Almost three decades after his death, His influence lives on. His films are still aired on the state-run television and thus watched by many, while his film theory titled by himself as Illuminationist Cinema continues to be discussed by pro-regime filmmakers and film critics.


He is best known for his 63-episode-long television war documentary series Chronicle of Triumph (1986-1988), which was aired on a weekly basis on television from 1986 to 1988. It was directed, written, narrated, and edited by a young Morteza Avini, who led a group of dedicated Islamic filmmakers operating on the frontlines of the war as well as in the cities and remote villages. In writing his narrations, Avini drew inspiration from classical Persian and Sufi literature. This, along with his non-linear narrative structure and his incorporation of the reflexive mode of representation, gave his films an essayistic quality, clearly distinguishing them from other conventional war reportage that were often aired on television.


The series was exceptionally influential in encouraging volunteers to join the war effort. It also had an essential role in shaping the propaganda aesthetic and audiovisual language of the Islamic Republic’s representation of the war. This is evident in the fact that today several institutes and organisations named after Avini or his television series continue to disseminate his written and audiovisual works while making their own pro-regime cultural productions.



The Films

As part of this special event, we are screening three episodes of Morteza Avini’s television war documentary series Chronicle of Triumph (1986-1988):


Season 1, Episode 7: Ascension (Orouj) – 38 Minutes

Narrator: Morteza Avini



On the New Year’s Eve, the film crew are at the home of a military commander who was killed during an operation. Members of the commander’s family are watching a previous episode of Chronicle of Triumph in which the commander can be seen at the frontline.


Season 1, Episode 11: The Aroma of Rustic Bread (Boo-ye Nan-e Roosta); The Road to Jerusalem Through Karbala – 47 Minutes

Narrators: Morteza Avini, Mohammad Nourizad



This episode has two parts. The first part, titled The Aroma of Rustic Bread is about the efforts of the residents of a village in providing support for the frontlines. Women can be seen baking bread to be sent to the fronts.

The second part, titled The Road to Karbala Through Jerusalem, takes the form of a letter from a young fighter to his father.


Season 3, Episode 5: Three Pages of the History of Resistance (Se Varagh az Tarikh-e Moghavemat) – 48 Minutes

Narrator: Morteza Avini



This episode moves between the frontlines and the cities. The title “Three Pages of the History of Resistance” refers to “resistance” firstly in the frontlines, secondly under bombardment in the cities, and thirdly, in the “resilience” of civilians in attending the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution despite Saddam Hussein’s threats of bombardment.





This special event includes three screenings and a webinar comprising of an introduction followed by four presentations and Q&A. Each speaker will speak for 15 minutes on a specific aspect of Morteza Avini’s films. These will be followed by 30 minutes of Q&A.




Presentations (in order)


·         Sacred Defence Cinema: Politics over Poetics

Dr Saeed Zeydabadi-Nejad presents a discussion of key developments in the formation and aesthetic developments in the so-called "Sacred Defence cinema" in post-revolutionary Iran.



·         Jihad in the Living Room: The Luring Aesthetics of Morteza Avini’s Television Documentaries

Dr Kaveh Abbasian discusses the filmmaking techniques and audiovisual aesthetics of Morteza Avini’s documentaries with a focus on the three episodes of Chronicle of Triumph that are screened as part of this event.



·         Morteza Avini and the Making of the Propaganda: How Mystical Shiism Documented the Iran-Iraq War

Dr Salour Evaz Malayeri presents an analysis of the discursive elements and ideological strategies of Morteza Avini’s war documentaries, focusing on the religious and literary signs embedded in the narrative text of Avini’s filmmaking.



·         The Self in a Sacred Collectivity: Sadeq Ahangaran’s Eulogy Performances as 
Narrative Meta-Comment in Avini’s Revayat-e Fath

Maryam Aras discusses the musical aspect of Avini’s documentaries with a focus on the famed religious singer/reciter Sadeq Ahangaran.





Speaker Bios


Dr Saeed Zeydabadi-Nejad is a Research Associate and Senior Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Global Media and Communications at SOAS. His research interests and activities span different genres, authors, methodologies and theoretical frameworks. He is also the Associate Editor of the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.

While his publications have focused on Iranian cinema and media, questions of politics have been of foremost importance to him. His research interests also include Third Cinema, diasporas and transnational media, Islamophobia, anthropology, communications and Shi’i Islam.



Dr Kaveh Abbasian is a Lecturer, researcher, and documentary filmmaker. His PhD project which was completed in 2019 at the University of Roehampton was titled Chronicle of Triumph: Iranian National Identity and Revolutionary Shi'ism in Morteza Avini's Sacred Defence Documentaries. He has recently completed a feature-length essay documentary on Morteza Avini titled Triumph (2021).

His research interests extend to zero budget/guerrilla filmmaking, national and transnational cinemas, refugee filmmaking, as well as Kurdish, diasporic, and accented cinemas. 



Dr Salour Evaz Malayeri earned his PhD in Modern Languages from the University of St Andrews. His PhD thesis focuses on ideology and resistance in Persian medieval poetry. He is also interested in the history of modern literary criticism in Iran and the dialogue between tradition and modernity in early 20th-century Persian poetry.

His presentation at BIMI is part of his new research project on Iran-Iraq war literature during the 80s, in which he gives a semiotic and discursive analysis of some of the Persian short stories, novels and films that manifest different approaches and responses towards the war.



Maryam Aras is a doctoral researcher in Iranian Cultural Studies, Modern History and Literatures at the University of Bonn. She obtained her M.A. in Oriental Studies, Political Sciences and American Literature from the University of Cologne.

In her dissertation, she focuses on Iranian maddāhī, a popular Shiite singing ritual, and its current political relevance. She is especially interested in Postcolonial Studies, diaspora and identity, Gender Studies and History of Ideas.


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