Tariq Ali on “Islamic” Cinema


The Guardian has an article on cinema from largely Muslim countries. Tariq Ali does a quick review of cinema in countries from Indonesia to the Soviet inflected style of Tajik films. Regarding films in Pakistan, Ali mentions that Indian films were banned in the 50s and 60s, but Pakistani popular cinema never took off:

Bosoms could heave but had to be carefully covered and, even at the beach, actresses had to swim fully clothed. Cinema proprietors in Pakistan decided to spice their shows with a tota” (strip). In Lahore, touts would parade outside some movie theatres and whisper to bystanders that a one-minute strip” was being shown at the late-night performance. The prowling males would pack the show and halfway through some boring movie, a minute or two of porno-flicks would appear on the screen. After this the cinema emptied.

Ali has a lot more appreciation for Iranian film (the Guardian also has an interview with Abbas Kioristami), though he has nothing to say about Arab films. If you’ve seen Egyptian films on cable, they are quite a bit like Indian films, at the very least in terms of their sensibility in melodrama, but then these are older films, so I don’t know how things have changed since the seventies and eighties. Films from Lebanon, from the few I have seen, have been something I have never seen before. They have a loony style that is quite remarkable. I have been told by knowledgeable friends that the poetry coming out of Lebanon has quite a bit of crazy experimentation going on as well. Though can you call it Islamic” cinema? I guess the term doesn’t make much sense anyway.

Going back to Bollywood, for a very illuminating account of watching Indian films in Bangladesh go to Shobak.org the essay tell you how Indian cows became symbols of neo-colonialism.