Abbas Baharloo, a cinema researcher, argues that when Mozaffar al-Din Shah, the fifth Qajar king, bought cinematography equipment, he marked the birth of cinema in Iran, which could also roughly be measured from the filming of the ‘flower festival,’ dating back to 120 years ago.
However, there is another perspective that maintains the production of the first Iranian film, ‘Abi and Rabi,’ is the beginning of Iranian cinema history in Iran, which falls short of 90 years ago.
The selection of September 12 as National Cinema Day was based on the day Mirza Ebrahim Khan Akkas Bashi, the royal photographer of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah, first used a camera to film the ‘flower festival’.
Twenty-six years ago in 1997, the Iranian House of Cinema proposed the idea of designating a National Cinema Day, with the intention of honoring May 21, but it was eventually approved on September 12, 2000, becoming an official part of the Iranian calendar.
It was in 1997 that Abolhassan Davoudi, one of the council members of Iran Cinema Celebration, said, “It has been decided that one day of the year be named ‘National Cinema Day,’ and the cinema celebration should be held simultaneously with that day. It is planned to honor May 21 as ‘National Cinema Day,’ and we have presented this proposal to the Supreme Council of Culture. With the approval of the Iranian Parliament, we can officially hold the House of Cinema celebration every year on the same day.”
Two years later, on September 12, 2000, ‘National Cinema Day’ was approved and became part of the Iranian calendar. From that year onward, this day served as an occasion to address the challenges facing filmmakers and the national cinema industry and to draw the attention of the general public to this sector.
Although there were occasional comments about the insignificance or ineffectiveness of this day, the symbolic presence of Cinema Day on the national calendar does signify the importance of cinema.
However, in 2020, the General Culture Council of Iran moved ‘National Cinema Day,’ along with several other occasions, to the appendices of the calendar. The secretary of the council explained, “Our official calendar had become full, so we had to eliminate some occasions and move others to the appendices. ‘National Cinema Day’ was one of the cases that got moved to the appendices.”
The removal of this national day from the country’s calendar sparked objections from filmmakers, and the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution finally reinstated National Cinema Day in the calendar in 2014.
National Cinema Day has been back on the calendar for several years now as an opportunity to further explore the concerns and challenges that the Iranian cinema is currently facing and find solutions to address them.