Morteza Avini

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Seyyed Morteza Avini
سید مرتضی آوینی
Born(1947-09-23)23 September 1947
Died9 April 1993(1993-04-09) (aged 45)
Fakkeh, Iran
EducationMaster's degree in Architecture
Alma materUniversity of Tehran
OccupationFilm director, author, photographer
OrganizationJihad TV Unit (part of Jihad of Construction)
Notable work
Ravayat-e Fath documentary film
TelevisionRavayat-e Fath
Spouse(s)Maryam Amini (m. 1982)[2]

Sayyid Morteza Avini (Persian: سید مرتضی آوینی‎; also spelled Aviny; 23 September 1947 – 9 April 1993)[3] was an Iranian documentary filmmaker, author, and theoretician of "Islamic Cinema."[4] He studied Architecture at Tehran University in 1965. During the Iranian Revolution, Avini started his artistic career as a director of documentary films, and is considered a prominent war filmmaker.[5] He made over 80 films on the Iran–Iraq War. According to Agnes Devictor, Avini invented original cinematography methods, depicting the esoteric side of the Iran–Iraq War in terms of Shia mystical thought. Most of his work was devoted to reflecting how bassijis perceived the war and their role in it. His most famous work is the documentary series Ravayat-e Fath (Narration of Victory), which was filmed during the Iran–Iraq War. He was killed by a landmine explosion in 1993, while filming. He was described as a Shahid (martyr) after his death, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared him "the master of martyred literati" (Persian: سید شهیدان اهل قلم‎). The 20th day of Farvardin is entitled the day of "Islamic Revolution art" in his honor.

Early life and education[edit]

Avini was born in 1947 in the city of Rey, south of Tehran,[4] to a middle-class Muslim family that was not particularly religious.[6] He attended elementary and secondary school in Zanjan, Kerman, and Tehran.[4] Avini entered university in 1965, earning a master's degree in architecture from Tehran University.[4]

Massoud Behnoud described Avini's lifestyle during the period he was studying in Tehran in the following manner: "for a period he became a hipster. He grew his hair long and started wearing jeans, bracelets."[3] Behnoud went on to argue that Avini's lifestyle had changed after 1978, when Avini became interested in literature and spiritual matters.[3] Avini's friends and classmates later said that his lifestyle and personal beliefs had changed after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.[7]

Shahrzad Beheshti, one of Avini's friends during his time at the university, later said that "Avini was a very different person before and after the revolution."[8] After the revolution, Avini gave up writing and burned all his writings with the stated intention of annihilating his "self."[4] After the revolution, Avini was introduced to Ayatollah Khomeini's ideology. He was described as a follower, but not a close disciple, of Khomeini.[6]

Artistic work[edit]

Avini's signed handwriting which reading "We hold the illusion that we've have stayed but the martyrs have passed. But the truth is that time has taken us away with itself, but the martyrs have stayed."

According to Agnes Devictor, a professor at the Sorbonne who specializes in Iranian cinema,[9] Avini chose to participate in the Iranian Revolution by making documentary films, instead of entering politics as many of his colleagues did, and which he was capable of doing.[6] Afterwards, he joined the television team of Construction Jihad.[4] His film-making has been described as having an ideological goal.[6] He was the head of Jihad Television Unit, a documentary film unit co-sponsored both by IRIB channel 1 and Construction Jihad.[5] According to Avini, his position was "suspended" between the two institutions, and if not for that, none of the films would have been created.[4] Avini made over 80 films on the Iran–Iraq War, and is considered a major contributor to the documentation of the war. During the war and in particular the battle of Khorramshahr, Avini decided to record the events and make promotional films.[6]


Reviewer Kamran Rastegar described Avini's work as melding "documentary techniques and ideological aims." His films rarely mention the national identity of the enemies in a battle, and instead explore the actions of young Iranian soldiers in comparison to the actions of historical Shi'a "martyrs."[10] According to Devictor, Avini created an original cinematic approach which was neither strictly realistic nor glorifying. Instead, Avini tried to capture both the visible (military operations) and the esoteric (the inner or moral) aspects of battle. He overlaid these with Shia mystic philosophy, and invited the viewer to develop a personal place within the event.[6] In discussing the nature of authorship in his films, Avini says: "Of course anything that an author writes emanates from inside. All arts are this way. Likewise, a film is the result of the filmmaker's inspiration. However, if one entirely immerses oneself in God, then God will inspire in his works and appear in them. That is my goal, not my claim."[4]

"Filming something differently" was the editorial policy of Avini in his documentary series. He worked with a crew of young amateur volunteers. As he had based his works on the break with the imperial past, he could not work with a team formed under the Mohammad Reza Shah or use older Iranian television methods, which drew from American styles.[6]

Avini has stated that his film crews tried to avoid the "sloppy fakery" of most TV News reports.[11] He had his teams stay at the set for long periods of time, taking the time to discover and encounter "the other." He tried to maintain realism by minimizing the use of cinematic effects, and worked to avoid depicting the habits that combatants had adopted when they were being filmed. Avini rarely filmed major victories and was hardly interested in strategy or military issues; his documentaries were almost exclusively devoted to how volunteers (bassijis) viewed the conflict[6] and their participation in it.[12]

Ravayat-e Fath[edit]

Ravayat-e Fath (Narration of Victory) was a "lifelong" documentary of the Iran–Iraq War which focused on the daily life of Iranian soldiers. It consisted of five series and dealt with the spiritual aspect of the war. It depicted "a lifetime spiritual experience" through its ideological narration.[3]

Theoretical works[edit]

He wrote a series of articles in Sureh magazine critiquing western civilization, a subject which was later the focus of his film Sarab (Mirage).[3]

According to Devictor, Avini was an intellectual and theorist who worked on reconciling the Iranian Islamic regime with political and aesthetic modernity.[6] Avini's work had similarities to that of 19th century thinkers in the Muslim world who felt it was necessary to employ Western political, economic, or cultural techniques in the service of spiritual art.[6] However, Avini said that artists needed to be able to subdue what he described as the profane nature of modern techniques in order to use them in spiritual revolutionary art.[13] At a conference at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, he said that Western art was a container that could accept any content, and that it was possible to insert religious thought without changing or betraying it.[6]

Death and legacy[edit]

Morteza Avini's grave stone.

Avini was killed by shrapnel from a landmine explosion in Fakkeh, in northwest Khuzestan Province, on April 9, 1993, while producing a documentary.[14] He was dubbed a shahid, or "martyr," after his death.[6] Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, described him as "the master of martyred literati" (Persian: سید شهیدان اهل قلم‎) on the 20th day of Farvardin, which was declared the day of "Islamic Revolution art" on the Iranian calendar.[15]

Selected films[edit]

Title Year Genre Episodes
Six Days in Turkmensahra 1979 documentary
Khuzestan Flood 1979 documentary
The Bitten by the Khan 1980 documentary 6 episodes
The Reward of Jihad and Martyrdom 1981 documentary 3 episodes
The Victory of Blood 1981 documentary 3 episodes
Truth 1981 documentary 11 episodes
With the Doctor of Jihad in Bashagerd 1981 documentary
Seven Stories of Balochistan 1981 documentary 7 episodes
Qiamollah 1982 documentary
Salavati Economy 1982 documentary 6 episodes
The Lion Men of God 1983 documentary 4 episodes
Brave men! Karbala is Waiting 1983 documentary
Karbala, War, People 1984 documentary 3 episodes
With Al'Mahdi Brigade at the Head of Albysheh Axis 1985 documentary
The Special Program of ValFajr 8 1987 documentary
Narration of Victory 1985~1988 documentary 63 episodes
Elegy 1988 documentary 2 episodes
America, Deception, Rape 1988 documentary
The Breeze of Life, Fragrance of Islamic Revolution in Lebanon 1988 documentary 13 episodes
The Herald of Affections 1989 documentary 7 episodes
It Can't Be Said, the Separation of a Friend 1989 documentary 2 episodes
Stone Revolution 1989 documentary 6 episodes
Talk to Me DoKoohe 1989 documentary 2 episodes
Mirage 1990 documentary 17 episodes
Three Generations of Runabout 1992 documentary 3 episodes
A City In the Sky 1992 documentary 6 episodes



Title Year Source
Magic Mirror – Volume I 1998 [18]
Magic Mirror – Volume II 1998 [19]
Magic Mirror – Volume III 1999 [20]
The Beginning of an End 1999 [21]
Imam and the Inner Life of Human 1999 [22]
The Rupture of Form 2009 [23]
Talk to Me DoKoohe 2001 [24]
The Observatory of Mysteries 2012 [25]
Development and Foundations of Western Civilization 1997 [26]
The Homeless Snails 2000 [27]
The Resurrection of Life 2000 [28]
Travel to the Land of Light 2005 [29]
A City in the Sky 2005 [30]
The Victory of Blood 2000 [31]
Another Tomorrow 1999 [32]
The Heavenly Treasures 1997 [33]
The Center of Sky 2001 [34]
The Breeze of Life 2005 [35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "دفتر امور ایثارگران/سردار جهادگر شهید سید مرتضی آوینی".
  2. ^ Staff writers (9 April 2015). "Martyr Avini's unpublished writings to be printed". IBNA.
  3. ^ a b c d e Talattof, Kamran (2015-03-05). Persian Language, Literature and Culture: New Leaves, Fresh Looks. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-57692-1. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Naficy, Hamid (2012). A Social History of Iranian Cinema The Globalizing Era, 1984–2010. Durham NC: Duke Univ Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-4878-8. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  5. ^ a b Leaman, Oliver (2003-12-16). Companion Encyclopedia of Middle Eastern and North African Film. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-66252-4. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Devictor, Agnès (27 February 2009). "Shahid Morteza Avini, cinéaste et martyr". La pensée de midi (in French) (27): 54–60. ISSN 1621-5338. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  7. ^ Asadzadeh, Mohammd Reza. "Who fears from the esoteric aspects of Avini". Khabar Online (in Persian) (2012). Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  8. ^ "A conversation with one of Avini's friend". 2009. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  9. ^ "Cannes spotlight puts Iranian film industry centre stage". The Independent. AFP. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  10. ^ Rastegar, Kamran (2015). Surviving Images: Cinema, War, and Cultural Memory in the Middle East. Oxford University Press. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-19-939017-5. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  11. ^ Peterson, Scott (2010-09-21). Let the Swords Encircle Me: Iran—A Journey Behind the Headlines. Simon and Schuster. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-4165-9739-1. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  12. ^ David, Catherine; Devictor, Agnès; Yousefi, Hamed. "Truth: Morteza Avini". HKW. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  13. ^ Avini, Morteza (2012). The Observatory of Mystery (Fa. Original: Tamashagah-e Raz): Essays, Critiques and Conversations about the Holy Defense Cinema. Tehran: Vaheh publication. Archived from the original on 13 August 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  14. ^ "bibliography of Martyr Seyyed Morteza Avini – IBNA" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  15. ^ "The master of martyred literati; the narrator of epic and sacrifice". Tasnim News. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  16. ^ "Filmography of Martyr Seyyed Morteza Avini –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Filmography of Martyr Seyyed Morteza Avini –" (in Persian). Archived from the original on 7 March 2016. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Mirror of the magic – Volume I –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  19. ^ "Mirror of the magic – Volume II –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  20. ^ "Mirror of the magic – Volume III –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  21. ^ "The beginning of an end –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  22. ^ "Imam and the inner life of human –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  23. ^ "Appearance gap –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  24. ^ "Speak with me DoKoohe –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  25. ^ "The watch place of secret –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  26. ^ "Development and Foundations of Western Civilization –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  27. ^ "The homeless snails –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  28. ^ "The resurrection of life –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  29. ^ "Travel to the Land of Light –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  30. ^ "A city in the sky –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  31. ^ "The victory of blood –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  32. ^ "An other tomorrow –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  33. ^ "The Heavenly Treasures –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  34. ^ "The center of sky –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  35. ^ "The breeze of life –" (in Persian). Retrieved 7 March 2016.

External links[edit]