Benevolent Dictators

After the successful revolution of 1979 in Iran. A group of revolutionaries was trying to completely shut down the cinema industry and create a new form of cinema according to the cultural goals of the revolution. This led to blacklisting a group of artists and censorship of a considerable number of movies. This is the story of Iranian cinema in the 1980s and 1990s, the period that these policies were at their peak.

  • Mahdi Khorramdel
    Yemen: A dubious battle
  • Mahdi Khorramdel
    Yemen: A dubious battle
  • Mahdi Khorramdel
    Yemen: A dubious battle
  • Reza Ahmadnejad
    Executive producer
    Yemen: A dubious battle
  • Mohsen Mofidi
    Supervising producer
    Yemen: A dubious battle
  • Reza Ahmadnejad
    Unit production manager
    Yemen: A dubious battle
  • Ali Nafezarefi
    Line producer
    Yemen: A dubious battle
  • Saeed Nemati
    Quality Consultants
    Yemen: A dubious battle
  • Mohsen Mofidi
    Historical and Creative Consultant
    Yemen: A dubious battle
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    دیکتاتورهای دلسوز
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    Documentary, Cinema, Cinema History, Tragedy, Black Comedy
  • Runtime:
    2 hours 7 minutes 16 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 27, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    50,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    Iran, Islamic Republic of
  • Country of Filming:
    Iran, Islamic Republic of
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Mahdi Khorramdel

Mehdi Khorramdel was born on 8th April 1987 in Tehran. He began his work as a journalist in 2002 as a sports journalist but after a period of political journalism soon his interest in arts and literature drew him towards cinema. Beginning in 2009 he switched fields and became a cinema journalist. His experience with video reports encouraged him to step in filmmaking with “A Rally’s Report” which touched on the sensitive issue of the Hijab in Iran. After spending some time away from filmmaking his interest in regional politics and his passion for films as a medium to express his ideas made him pick up the camera once again and make the war documentary “Yemen: a dubious battle” which analyses Yemen war from a militaristic point of view.

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Director Statement

For the past four decades, some of the most high-ranking government officials managing the Iranian cinema have called themselves Benevolent Dictators. They believe forcing their beliefs on Iranian filmmakers is a natural and also a necessary right. While investigating the historical facts, things soon got tragic, oppressive, and after a while, quite absurd.

As a cinema journalist, I was at the heart of Iranian cinema news, history, and politics for the past decade. Being part of it myself after I made my first documentary and consulted on various projects, I had every reason to believe that I knew Iran's Cinema like the back of my hand. But going through thousands of hours of historical footage and interviews for the past two years shocked me to my very core.

It felt like unearthing a forgotten mass grave. Only after decades, the victims dare to voice their feelings and experiences. After a lifelong ban from working as an actor, an old, heartbroken superstar calls his life not better than death at a dear friend's funeral who died denied another chance to appear on the silver screen. A theater owner talks about being taken by nonjudicial government employees at gunpoint, tortured and flogged to sign a forced statement denouncing his ownership over his films. And a director tells about the blind censor who was in charge of evaluating films he was not even able to see but very much capable of rejecting them.

Some of the footage used in this documentary are publishing for the first time after decades, while most of them were collecting dust in long-forgotten personal and governmental archives overlooked by everyone. For maximum historical accuracy, I tracked down historical documents, talked to the people involved or tracked down remaining family members, and tried my best to be as impartial as possible.

And after two years of hard work, not only do I owe it to myself, but I strongly feel that I owe it to all the victims to tell their stories. And I can only hope they can find comfort in knowing that their stories are shared and not forgotten, ignored, and buried in a nameless archive, lost in yellowed-out pages of history.

Mahdi Khorramdel