Hamid Naficy is one of the world's leading authorities on Iranian film, and A Social History of Iranian Cinema is his magnum opus. Covering the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first and addressing documentaries, popular genres, and art films, it explains Iran's peculiar cinematic production modes, as well as the role of cinema and media in shaping modernity and a modern national identity in Iran. This comprehensive social history unfolds across four volumes, each of which can be appreciated on its own. The extraordinary efflorescence in Iranian film, TV, and the new media since the consolidation of the Islamic Revolution animates Volume 4. During this time, documentary films proliferated. Many filmmakers took as their subject the revolution and the bloody eight-year war with Iraq; others critiqued postrevolution society. The strong presence of women on screen and behind the camera led to a dynamic women's cinema. A dissident art-house cinema-involving some of the best Pahlavi-era new-wave directors and a younger generation of innovative postrevolution directors-placed Iranian cinema on the map of world cinemas, bringing prestige to Iranians at home and abroad.
A struggle over cinema, media, culture, and, ultimately, the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic, emerged and intensified. The media became a contested site of public diplomacy as the Islamic Republic regime as well as foreign governments antagonistic to it sought to harness Iranian popular culture and media toward their own ends, within and outside of Iran. The broad international circulation of films made in Iran and its diaspora, the vast dispersion of media-savvy filmmakers abroad, and new filmmaking and communication technologies helped to globalize Iranian cinema. A Social History of Iranian Cinema Volume 1: The Artisanal Era, 1897-1941 Volume 2: The Industrializing Years, 1941-1978 Volume 3: The Islamicate Period, 1978-1984 Volume 4: The Globalizing Era, 1984-2010