“Old” Images of Iran Resurfaced: The Case of Tehran Has No More Pomegranates! (2006)

by Maral Mohsenin (University of Lausanne/UvA)
(co-author Carine Bernasconi, University of Lausanne)

Abstract: A successful hit in Iranian cinemas in 2009, the film Tehran Has No More Pomegranates! made extensive use of archival footage, mostly fiction films from the past of Iranian cinema, to document the history of Tehran, Iran’s capital city. The film is a juxtaposition of archival films and contemporary scenes with a narrative voice explaining the problems the director and his team were confronted to while using this material. It marks the re-use of films produced before the Islamic revolution of 1979, which employed different societal norms compared to those established after the revolution, some of them not accepted anymore. Conserved by the National Film Archive of Iran, but rarely exploited after the revolution, these images re-appear on the public cultural scene of the country thanks to this documentary. This paper analyses the reinsertion of these images into the post-revolution Iranian social imagery, with all its complications.

Maral Mohsenin conducts a joint PhD research on The evolution of discourses on digital technology in European film archives under the supervision of Professors Benoît Turquety and Giovanna Fossati, since 2016. In parallel, she works at the film restoration and conservation sector of the Cinémathèque Suisse. She has a dual academic background in Engineering and Film Studies.

Carine Bernasconi graduated from the University of Lausanne in Film History and worked for more than fifteen years as a Programmer in festivals such as Locarno, Visions du Réel and Cinéma du Reel. Carine Bernasconi is writing her PhD thesis on the topic The presence of Iranian cinema in France and how a foreign cinematography is built in the French cultural network.


Tehran has no more Pomegranates! (Massoud Bakhshi, 2006, 35mm, 68’)

Truth and fabrication, documentary and fiction – the line gets blurred in Massoud Bakhshi’s award-winning musical film Tehran has No More Pomegranates! (2006). Building his narrative from Tehran’s erection in 1241 BC to its rise as the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Bakhshi’s rendition is both humorous and critical in its portrayal of contemporary Iranian life. Knowing the complexities of representing the ever-expanding and shifting city that Tehran is, Bakhshi makes no effort to provide an objective view. Juxtaposing images of the past from archival films with images Bakhshi collected in the five years that lead to his film, Bakhshi intelligently weaves together an irony-filled city portrait of Tehran.