Following on from the project The Aesthetics of Censorship begun in 2009, Leila Pazooki has turned her attention to Iranian cinema, which has been subjected to strict state-imposed censorship since the revolution of 1979. With the creation of a Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance whose purpose is to Islamize all types of art and artistic activity, the state wishes to maintain a national production by driving forward a public policy that focuses on films that are “pure and stripped of any vulgarity”. Therefore Iranian cinema is restricted to conforming to a particular “Islamic moral code”, from the writing of the screenplay to the making, production and even the distribution of a film.
No more representations of women in clothes that could reveal any part of their bodies, with the exception of the face and hands. No more physical contact between men and women, however it might be portrayed. As a result, the dictates of censorship have encouraged the emergence of a new wave in cinema, collectively known as “Islamic Hollywood”. If for Hollywood, sex, eroticism and violence are the basic ingredients in every cinema production, “Islamic Hollywood” has succeeded in finding its own recipes in order to get past the restrictions imposed by censorship whilst continuing to entertain the public.
So for her video Women Eating (2010) Leila Pazooki has selected extracts of Farsi films showing women engaged in the seemingly banal act of the consumption of food on screen. Since any explicitly erotic element is no longer permissible, this comes through in the symbolic depiction of a woman who may bring a simple food – solid or liquid- to her mouth, thereby evoking the sexual act itself. Paradoxically, by imposing the wearing of a headscarf this far into the private sphere on screen, the censorship that restricts female representation has engendered a much greater emphasis on the expressiveness of the gaze and the eroticizing of the mouth, made deliberately dramatic in the close-up frames. On the border between licit and illicit images, Women Eating reveals the transgressive creativity of Iranian cinema, able to transcend moral, religious and ideological structures, where the imposed framework has become the catalyst for a new kind of expression…
Translated by Theodora Taylor.
 Agnès Devictor “A public policy for cinema: the case of the Iranian Islamic Republic” in Politix, vol.16, no. 61, 2003, p.151-178