Dr Zahra Tavassoli Zea

Dr Zahra Tavassoli Zea is an experienced researcher and a frequent contributor of Spot On, Doc.


Dr Zahra Tavassoli Zea is an independent researcher and published author who specialises in the relationship between post-war French cinema and nineteenth-century French literature. Her first monograph, Balzac Reframed (2019), focuses on the aesthetic connections between Honoré de Balzac’s literary realism and the body of work of Nouvelle Vague directors Éric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette.

A native of Honduras with Iranian origins, Zahra grew up in France, where she developed her love of arts, letters and philosophy, and discovered their links with the seventh art. The Bazinian idea of cinema as the “sum” of all artistic disciplines and tool for research has occupied her mind throughout her postgraduate studies, and became the main tenet of her teaching style: “To talk about everything but cinema itself is a good way to start understanding cinema”. Curious about the expansion of national cinemas, Zahra edited a special issue in Film Studies on the necessity to encourage translation initiatives amongst Film and Media academic communities, in order to widen Anglophone students’ horizons in the domain of film criticism and theory. She also took part in conferences in Honduras to introduce her film expertise and engage in discussions on the meaning of “realism” for countries whose artistic voices are slowly emerging, in the midst of political and social unrest, by claiming back and reconstructing their own cultural identities.

Before pursuing her postgraduate studies at the University of Kent, Zahra obtained an Assistant Director’s diploma from CLCF, a Paris-based film school, and worked as a production assistant for 3D animation films at On Animation Studios. She is currently working as a freelance translator and language specialist, and will be publishing her second book, a novella in French, by next year.   

PhD in History and Philosophy of Arts

“La Bande des Quatre: Nineteenth-century Artistic and Literary Sources in Late Nouvelle Vague Filmmaking” (2017). Supervised by Prof. Mattias Frey, Dr. Jon Kear and Dr. Thomas Baldwin.


  • Tavassoli Zea, Z. (2019), Balzac Reframed: The Classical and Modern Faces of Éric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette, Cham, CH, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Tavassoli Zea, Z. (2018), “Mito y genealogía: el vuelo de Ícaro en las obras de Honoré de Balzac, André Bazin y Jacques Rivette”, in ¿Qué es el cine? IX Congreso Internacional de Análisis Textual, ed. Mercedes Miguel Borrás, 1211–1220. Valladolid, Ediciones Universidad de Valladolid.
  • Tavassoli Zea, Z. and Fernandez-Meneses, J. ed., (2017), “National and Transnational Perspectives on Film Theory and Criticism: Then and Now”, Film Studies, 16.
  • Tavassoli Zea, Z. (August 2017), “Construcción, consumo y reevaluación cinematográfica de un mito francés: Carmen”, El Zángano Tuerto,4.

Teaching Experience

  • Art and Film. Content included: Early Silent Films, German Expressionism, Post-war French Film Adaptations, Contemporary Avant-Garde Filmic Practices
  • Contemporary French Cinema. Seminars on the works of Cédric Klapisch, Olivier Assayas, Claire Denis, Dominik Moll, François Ozon, Agnès Varda and Christophe Honoré
  • Post-war European Cinema. Content included: Italian Neorealism, French Nouvelle Vague, New German Cinema, Eastern European Film Cultures, the Italowestern, the Historical Film, National Stardom and Sex(ploitation), the cinema of Ingar Bergman
  • Questions of French Cinema. Content included:the Silent Period, Jean Renoir’s Realism, Jean Cocteau and Surrealism, the “Tradition de la qualité”, the Nouvelle Vague’s  “Rive droite” and “Rive gauche” directors, Cinema “du look”, Cinema “de la banlieue”
  • Film History: Research Methods. Content included: Film Criticism, Film and Postwar French literature, Film and Sociology, Film and Ethnography, Film and the Dystopian Genre, Film and the Enlightenment Legacy, Film and May 68, Film and the Nineteenth Century, Women’s Cinema
  • Documentary Cinema. Content included: Documentary vs. Fiction, Memory and the Site, the Archive and Performance, the Essay Film, Mockumentaries, Direct Cinema, Film and the Judicial System, Women’s Documentary
  • Extreme Cinema. List of directors included: Michael Haneke, Michael Winterbottom, Virginie Despentes, Coralie Trinh Ti, Srdjan Spasojevic, Lars von Trier, Park Chan-wook, Maja Milos and Markus Schleinzer
  • French Language Lector.
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