I love Iranian cinema. I hope I can revive this thread with some discussion about this very interesting national cinema. I think in it, we see some of the better examples of post-modern filmmaking.
My favourite Iranian film is The Taste of Cherry, which won the Palme D'Or in 1997. It is a fantastic film on its on, but I think the ending elevates it. I'm talking about how after being immersed in the story of Badii's life for the length of the film, Kiarostami chooses to break that immersion by showing us documentary-style clips of them filming some scenes. It blends fiction with reality in a perfect way to emphasise the closeness of the two. Kiarostami believes that works of fiction can be just as reflective and honest as documentaries. By using this documentary style at the end, Kiarostami is showing that the events you saw are just as equally a documentary, as a work of fiction, and insisting upon its meaning
The blending of fiction and reality is recurring in the work of Kiarostami. We can look to his film Close Up, which is part documentary, part fictional drama. It uses those once embroiled in a criminal case against each other, as actors to tell the story. He tells a real-life documentary story using the real-life people who were involved, as actors. All the while he mixes in court footage of the proceedings. It's a bit hard to explain, but it is a very compelling story that gets you questioning the line between documentary, fiction, and reality.
Another example in Kiarostami's films is at the beginning of "Through the Olive Trees", where some actors introduce themselves (pic rel).
Although the intersection of reality and fiction is something that we see not only in Kiarostami, but in other Iranian directors too (who were no doubt influenced by him - he is generally considered the best Iranian director).
A notable example of this can be found in the work of Jafar Panahi. Taxi Tehran follows Panahi as he drives a taxi around Tehran. We see a myriad of interactions, some real, some scripted/acted, all however, using people who aren't actors. Another good film of his is "This is Not a Film", which he made to protest the Iranian government who banned him from making films (and I think maybe also leaving his property). It was smuggled from Iran to Cannes on a USB hidden inside a cake.
Iranian films approach some really high-concept difficult questions about art in a really grounded way. Perhaps due to not often using professional actors (Kiarostami for one thought you could get better performances out of untrained people). Their post-modern approach is really refreshing compared to some western post-modern films that I find can be indulgent, leaning too heavily into 'breaking the modernist rules', leaving behind something shallow. Though I suppose that's part of the point - it doesn't have to be meaningful or even have meaning.
I could talk more, but I think I'll leave it there for now. Please post your favourite Iranian films or suggestions as a reply to this post.