Coronavirus returns long-banned movies to Iran

TEHRAN: The new pandemic has brought back something invisible in I ran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution: a drive-in cinema.

Once denounced by revolutionaries for allowing too much privacy for young single couples, he now operates from a parking garage just below Tehran's iconic Milad Tower, showing a movie in line with views of the diehard.

Workers spray disinfectants on the cars that line up here every night after buying tickets online for what's called the Cinema Machine in Farsi. They tune in to the movie's audio through an FM station on their car radios.

With stadiums shut and movie theaters closed, this parking-lot screening is the only film being shown in a communal setting amid the virus outbreak in I ran , one of the world's worst. I ran has reported more than 98,600 cases with over 6,200 deaths, though international and local experts acknowledge I ran 's toll is likely far higher.

It was very fascinating, this is the first time this has happened, at least for people my age, said Behrouz Pournezam, 36, who watched the movie with his wife. We're here mainly for the excitement to be honest, the movie itself didn't matter too much. I didn't care what movie it was, or by whom or what genre.

The film being shown, however, is "Exodus," produced by a firm affiliated with I ran 's hard-line Revolutionary Guard. The film by director Ebrahim Hatamikia focuses on cotton farmers whose fields die from salt water brought by local dams. The farmers, led by an actor who appears to be the Islamic Republic's answer to American cowboy stand-in Sam Elliott, drive their tractors to Tehran to protest the government.

There is precedent for this anger. I ran had built dams across the country since the revolution especially under hard-line former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that environmentalists blame for damaging waterways and farmland. But this film instead involves "a peasant protest against the local authority that symbolically resembles President Hassan Rouhani's government," the state-owned said.

Rouhani, a relative moderate in I ran 's Shiite theocracy, has increasingly faced hard-line criticism amid the collapse of his nuclear deal with world powers. Those allied with his administration have criticized the film.

Viewer Atefeh Soheili, however, was glad to enjoy the entertainment outside her home.

Now I'm sitting here with my hands clean and if I want to eat something or relax, I don't have to worry about distancing myself from other people, she said.

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