The Movement arose after the 2009 Iranian presidential election in which protesters demanded the removal of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ali Khamenei’s preferred candidate, from office and his replacement by reformist Mohamed Mousavi. The Green Movement can be considered part of the 2009-2011 revolutionary wave in the region, demanding an expansion in personal freedoms and popular control in the government. However, the starting points of the Arab Spring uprisings were associated with domestic economic difficulties, including high unemployment rates, inflation and little hope for a better future. In Iran, people were not satisfied with the result of the electoral vote, and the widespread belief was that reformist Mir Hussein Mousavi should be elected. According to demographic data, and in contrast to the Arab spring, the starting point of the Green Movement was not economical. The 2009 Iran demonstrations indicated that most of the protesters were highly educated professionals from Iran’s middle class; initially, the lower class was notably absent. When the Movement was formed, it started including other popular demands beyond the electoral vote.
Τhe movement emerged in an era of mass social media use, which crucially affected the domestic and international reporting of the protests. The use of mobile phones and the internet was wide enough to provide accessible, fast and world-scale communication among the protesters. They used the latest means of mass communication in the early social media age, when Iran numbered at the time the majority of internet users in the Middle East, approaching 30 million. Living in the era of the image, the video was the most reliable form of reporting a specific event that occurred on the streets. Video -contrary to photos- utilizes motion, sound and image; via those tools, it can convey the sentiment of the moment and transmit it to the domestic and international audiences. The Neda Agha-Soltan on-camera death on 20 June 2009 was a short video uploaded on social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and presented in most international media. The production and distribution of a video through digital media was the most safe and straightforward way of passing the information without the fear of the government’s censor.
Furthermore, social media and mobile phones changed the way in which people produce videos. Every person in the street demonstrations could film and present the public video footage. Those small videos uploaded to social media were later montaged to larger ones as documents of the real struggle in the streets. The response of international film festivals on those documentaries and docufictions showed a shift in the kind of films that were accepted and nominated. The differences between video reporting and a typical artistic film production presented on the big screen were bridged. This change may be seen in the November 2010 International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam, which gave its Unlimited Award to “The Silent Majority Speaks” (2010) by The Silent Collective. The film is an anthology of fourteen videos shot with mobile phones by anonymous Iranians about the post-election protests and the state violence against protestors. Also, “The Green Wave” (2010), directed by Iranian-German filmmaker Ali Samadi Ahadi, which premiered internationally at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2011, is a documentary-collage using raw footage from the Green Movement’s demonstrations combined with narration and animation. Also, Facebook posts, Twitter messages and videos posted online are included in the film composition. In the same direction is also Hamed Yusefi’s 25-minute film, “The Aesthetics of Political Protest in Iran”, aired by BBC Persian on 22 July 2010. Intensely politicized, these documentaries are, along with the fiction films of the same period, the natural continuation of the new wave in the Iranian cinema, which started even before the Iranian revolution of 1979.
Iranian film origins can be traced back to the 20th century, even before the revolution of 1979, when Iranian film directors made their name in the international sphere for their innovative views on what is the definition of a film, the ways with which fiction and documentary films can be mixed, the absence of music and the use of ordinary people playing themselves. The preference of Iranian directors for a humanistic aesthetic language, simplicity of scenography, and lighting are strongly related to their non-access to large budgets. The Iranian film crews are far smaller in skilled personnel than the European ones. Kiarostami’s “Close up” (1990), Panahi’s “The Mirror” (1997), and Mahmalbaf’s “The apple” (1999) are low-budget movies that used, in the core of their story, non-actors playing themselves. The use of written script and some real actors makes these movies belong in the fiction and not in the documentary category. These origins of the post-revolution Iranian cinema, or the Second Wave Iranian cinema (Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf, Majidi) will define the next Iranian wave of cinema, or Third Wave, which dates back to the start of the new millennium.
In the 21st century, and more specifically after the events of the Persian Awakening or Persian Spring of 2009, the demand for social justice rose. Iranian directors, both domestically and in the diaspora, were facing of many obstacles in their artistic expression. “It’s a very difficult environment to be in as an artist while remaining true to your vision,” said Jasmin Ramsey, the Director of Communications at the Center for Human Rights in Iran. The government’s response towards the demonstrators was severe, and 40 people were killed just in the early days of the demonstrations, while the security forces detained hundreds. The Iranian government eventually targeted the media, newspapers, magazines and websites loyal to the Movement by shutting them down and imprisoning their journalists. The government’s measures censored social media and foreign email services such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail, closing them for days at a time. Meanwhile, an intentional switch from color to black and white television was intended as a severe attack against the color of green, the color of Mousavi’s electoral campaign and historically the color of Islam.
Film directors such as Jafal Panahi, Mohammad Rasoulof and Rakhshan Bani Etemad and others expressed their anti-government sentiment through their films and public activities. However, the international star director of them all is Jafar Panahi. Even from the early 2000s, Panahi had problems with the government. Panahi’s imprisonment and later house arrest occurred during the Movement’s first months. Moreover, the government forbade him from making films or leaving the country. All five movies -“This is not a film” (2011), “Closed Curtain” (2013), “Taxi” (2015), “Three Faces” (2018), The Years of Everlasting” (2021)- were filmed during his house imprisonment and are acts of political opposition and artistic inventiveness. The “Taxi” actually garnered the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival. The same idea was previously presented differently by Iranian cinema mentor Kiarostami in his movie “Ten” (2001). The movie follows the life of a woman driving her car in Tehran and, there, one can see her relationship with her sister, son and strangers, and her social status. What is more, Jafar Panahi is letting us see him during his house imprisonment in “This is not a film.” Panahi uses the image as protest and does not focus on the artistic side of film-making; he is triggering the system by literally making films by filming something and montaging it together. Other filmmakers, like Mohammad Rasoulofi, follow a purely dramatical approach to critique the country’s theocratic leadership through fictional movies like “A Man of Integrity'' (2017).
However, Iran’s audience has shifted its focus more and more on TV series, both domestic and foreign, illegally through satellite channels. After the uprising of 2009 and the sanctions era of 2012, millions of Iranians nightly watched foreign -mostly Turkish melodramas- and banned content circulating in Iranian society. The number of TV series, and American movies that are transliterated into Farsi, provides information about the West’s reflection on the country.
Films in all their forms managed to transfer the message of the Movement to the international audience. The people’s slogan “Where is my vote,” along with the government’s severe cruelty towards peaceful protesters, was documented and welcomed by the international film industry.
All links accessed 27/03/2022.
 Nikki R. Keddie, “Arab and Iranian Revolts 1979-2011: Influences or Similar Causes?,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 44, no. 1 (February 2012): 150-152, https://bit.ly/3Ns0DiI
 Saeed Ghasseminejad, Behnam Ben Taleblu and Eliora Katz, “Evolution Toward Revolution,” Journal of International Affairs 73, no. 2, (Spring/Summer 2020): 152, https://bit.ly/3Li5gdl
 Victor H. Sundquist, “Iranian Democratization Part I: A Historical Case Study of the Iranian Green Movement,” Journal of Strategic Security 6, no. 1, (Spring 2013): 34, https://bit.ly/3DeX8HO
 Hamid Naficy, “Iranian Internet Cinema, a Cinema of Embodied Protest: Imperfect, Amateur, Small, Unauthorized, Global,” in the Media and Mapping Practices in the Middle East and North Africa: Producing Space, (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021), 127-128, https://bit.ly/384WdhI
 Sara Aridi, “Defiant Iranian Directors speak out about Censorship on screen and off,” The New York Times, 3 March, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/01/movies/rasoulof-iran-filmmakers-protest.html
 Victor H. Sundquist, “Iranian Democratization Part I: A Historical Case Study of the Iranian Green Movement,” Journal of Strategic Security 6, no. 1, (Spring 2013): 28-33, https://bit.ly/3tHHb9W
 Hamid Naficy, op.cit.
 Hamid Dabashi, “Is this the end of Iranian cinema?,” Aljazeera, 18 February 2015, https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/2/18/is-this-the-end-of-iranian-cinema
 Sara Aridi, op.cit
 Pedram Partovi, “Televisual Experiences of Iran’s Isolation,” Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) 52, no. 1 (April 2018): 115-117, https://bit.ly/3NseXrq