My project is the first study on the founding years of the Iranian New Wave cinema (Mowj-e No), which started in 1962 with Forough Farrokhzad's "The House is Black," through to the Iranian Revolution of 1979. My work conceptualizes cinema as the center of a network of signifying practices, particularly modern poetry and fiction, as well as classical art from the Safavid era, Islamic iconography, and regional textile arts and handicrafts. In addition, this project traces new dimensions to Iran's post-revolutionary cinema, highlighting unexplored aspects of its collaborative, interdisciplinary and intertextual cultures. By juxtaposing the formation of the avant-garde against the backdrop of a culture of dissent, my work intervenes in the larger scholarship on Iranian cultural history, which in privileging 1979 and the establishment of a theocracy as a moment of rupture, overlooks what I demonstrate is a longstanding relationship between formal innovation in the cinema as a response to widespread social and politic anxieties about what constitutes "Iranian-ness." My research shows how in the early 1960s, Iranian cinema struggled to define a national aesthetic practice that articulates a central antagonism between state and society. The research question that grounds my dissertation asks why "Iranian-ness" is inconceivable without the cinema. My methodology combines formal, textual analysis with film historiography to argue the importance of the parallel development of filmic intertextuality with the national project. I examine the historical context by analyzing the production, reception and interaction of ten New Wave films within the larger culture of the avant-garde. Following that, I read each film closely in order to draw out the relevant pieces of how the intertextual matrix expresses itself in the language of the cinema. My work is both a theory of the cinema and a cultural history of contemporary Iran.