Here we define the boundaries and limitations of what we label as Invisible Cinema, through which FCI hopes to initiate an artistic and intellectual exchange with film experts and interested viewers in order to further explore the breadth and depth of this genre.
What is Cinema Invisible? The history of this title goes back to the enthusiasm of two people living away from their homeland after the occasion of the 2009 Iranian presidential election (see conversation with Mahmood Karimi-Hakak).
Even though today, four years after that event, the political import of this phrase has diminished, it is still potent. In reality the foundation of invisible cinema is based upon particular conditions specific to certain societies and cultures. Therefore, this concept has indestructible connections with political, cultural and social phenomena.
Invisible Cinema is/is not independent
We may want to equate invisible cinema with independent cinema. However, Independent Cinema itself is not a clear and transparent concept, rather its definition changes within diverse historical periods, one of which stresses its reliance on low budget and the absence of financial support by the film industry’s corporations and organizations. Still, today one can often find connection between the so-called independent firms and larger establishments. At the very least, the films presented by independent cinema need larger brokers to receive wider distribution. Therefore, using such labels as independent or unaffiliated for Invisible Cinema may not help clarify this genre. Yet it may be hard to define this category through another unique feature of independent cinema; its aesthetic quality and distinction from the dominant industry. Both independent and/or invisible cinema may follow the classic and customary artistic practices while popular cinema could adopt uncustomary methods. In other words, invisible and independent cinema may share concepts and ideas that are used interchangeably.
FCI’s definition of Invisible Cinema includes following categories:
The first milieu of this genre refers to the existence of themes or ideas that are hidden, however unconsciously, in the works of one or more filmmakers. These concepts that may be political, social, cultural or racial, then surface at a later time and as result of certain changes in social, national or global circumstances. For example, after the Islamic revolution certain impressions became apparent in some Iranian films made earlier that were not consciously placed at the time they were made, or would not have meant much if the revolution had not happened.
Other provisions of hidden cinema may include a specific idea or concept that does not directly relate to the subject of the film, and only becomes explicit in the context of Hidden Cinema, i.e. a certain geographic location that is used as background.
At times, this hiding is deliberate and is used by one cultural, social or political stream against another. The disregarding of Third Cinema prior to the Sixties is a case in point. Or it might be rooted in religious fanaticism, racial prejudice or ethnic bigotry. Yet another interpretation of hidden cinema refers to censorship, which could hide all or part of a film. Therefore, Invisible Cinema includes films that have been censored at the time of their making or purged according to the standards of the censor.
This point could be as confusing as it is obvious. Films that have been forgotten or ignored (whether when they were made, or after a passage of time) may be included in this category. A film pulled off the archives and reevaluated by a critic or a film specialist could be labeled as unseen. Therefore, once such a film has been discovered and screened it will no longer belong to this classification. Never the less, the most important feature of these films remains their historical status.
Death of the Invisible Cinema
Although Invisible Cinema has always existed, it has not yet been given its proper place within the history of this artistic industry. If a festival aims to find and screen invisible cinema (with all its implied categories), it will undoubtedly face the paradox inherent in this label. Once an invisible film is exhibited at a festival (local, regional, national or international) it is no longer invisible. The life of such visibility may be as short as the duration of the festival or as long as it attracts audiences. Therefore, presentation of such films encompasses that same paradox that exists within the concept of Invisible Cinema.