Tehran: The new coronavirus pandemic lockdown has brought back something unseen in Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution when Ayatollah-ruled country lifted its veil of strict orthodoxy after 40 years that inhibits social interaction between the genders by reopening a drive-in movie theater in Tehran.
Once lambasted by Islamic revolutionaries for allowing too much privacy for unmarried young couples, the drive-in theater now operates from a parking lot right under Tehran’s iconic Milad tower.
The film being shown is ‘Exodus’. Spectators tuned into a local FM radio station to hear the film’s audio from their cars. Movie theaters had been closed in Iran since February 23 to stem the spread of COVID-19. Iran has reported more than 98,600 cases with over 6,200 deaths so far.
Workers spray disinfectants on cars that line up each night at the parking lot entrance. Only two people are allowed in each car. The drive-in theater had a capacity of 165 people.
The film is produced by a firm affiliated with Iran’s hard-line Revolutionary Guard. The film is about a group of cotton farmers who leave their farms to protest the local official’s unfulfilled promises at the president’s office in the capital.
There is precedent for this anger. Iran 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 Tehran Times said.
Rouhani, a relative moderate in Iran’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.
In India, such establishments have remained distant dream rather than becoming the norm. However, with the post-lockdown compulsions of maintaining social distancing and avoiding centrally climate-controlled venues as potential infection hotspots, drive-ins could become a growth sector everywhere.