Coronavirus returns long-banned movies to Iran

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

Once denounced by revolutionaries for allowing too much privacy for young single couples, a drive-in movie theater now operates from a parking garage just below Tehran's iconic Milad tower, showing a movie online 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 closed and movie theaters closed, this parking screening is the only film to be shown in a community setting amid the virus outbreak in Iran, one of the worst in the world. Iran has reported more than 98,600 cases with more than 6,200 deaths, although international and local experts acknowledge that Iran's figure is probably much 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 is or by whom or what genre.

However, the movie shown is Exodus, produced by a firm affiliated with Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guard.

The director's film focuses on cotton farmers whose fields are dying from the salt water brought in by local dams.

The farmers, led by an actor who appears to be the Islamic Republic's response to the American cowboy. Sam Elliott They drive their tractors to Tehran to protest against the government.

There is a precedent for this anger. Iran had built dams across the country since the revolution, especially under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's harsh line, which environmentalists blame for damaging waterways and farmland.

But this movie involves a peasant protest against local authority that symbolically resembles the president's government, said the state-owned Tehran Times.

Rouhani, a relative moderate in Iran's Shiite theocracy, has increasingly faced harsh criticism amid the collapse of his nuclear deal with world powers. Allies in his administration have criticized the film.

The viewer, however, was glad to enjoy the entertainment outside his 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. (AP)