From leprosy to The Willow Tree: decoding disability and Islamic spirituality in Iranian film

Emily Jane O’Dell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The lack of attention in academic discourse to representations of disability in films from the Middle East has led to an incomplete picture of representations of disability in global cinema. For instance, the diverse meanings of disability in Iranian cinema and the influence of disability on the emergence of Iranian New Wave cinema have been almost completely ignored by scholars. A number of award-winning films from Iran have featured disability as central to their narratives – such as The House is Black (1963), Taste of Cherry (1997), The Color of Paradise (1999), The Willow Tree (2005), and The Painting Pool (2013). Disability in these films serves alternatively as a symbol of spiritual possibility, a mark of marginalization, and a covert social critique. These films examine the emotional, physical, and social implications of disability, while celebrating the cultural power of film to challenge social, religious, and artistic barriers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1123-1126
Number of pages4
JournalDisability and Society
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Aug 9 2015


  • Iran
  • Islam
  • Sufism
  • blindness
  • depression
  • disability
  • film
  • gender
  • intellectual disability
  • leprosy
  • new wave cinema
  • religion
  • spirituality
  • suicide
  • visual impairment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • General Health Professions
  • General Social Sciences


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