Saturday, July 31, 2010

Iran Film Festival

The Iran Film Festival will be held this month at the Iran Culture House. FC2 speaks with curator Supriya Suri on the films, censorship in Iran and why Iranian film has a universal appeal.

Iranian film director, Dariush Mehrjui once said “The closer you go, the deeper you go into your reality, the more universal it will be.” Supriya Suri, Artistic Director at film society, Cine Darbar and curator of the Iran film festival this month tells us, “Ever since the beginning of the Iranian New Wave, Iranian directors have been trying to look deeper into their social problems and have attempted to explore through cinema keeping their own people in mind which therefore catches global interest.”
Iranian cinema has generally been defined “as an antecedent of Italian neo realism with layers that predominately carried a social or a political subtext. Suri says that defining has its limitations and that to her Iranian film “symbolises a material truth that though constraint showed the realities of the world through mise en scene that clearly smelled, felt, and behaved just like Iranians- a realism that could not have been anything but Iranian.”

The festival in August at the Iran Culture House will screen four films. “The festival focuses on directors and films which are less popular among the Indian audiences. At the same time,they are combined with the popular names to have a wider reach among the audience.”

Baran by Majid Majidi was made in 2001 and set in Tehran is about a Kurdish construction worker Latif who is a complete slacker at his work till the arrival of Afghan refugee worker Rahmat. Rahmat turns out to be a woman, Baran in the disguise of a man. This revelation changes both their lives. Asghai Farhadi’s Fireworks Wednesday is about Rouhi whose first day at her job is on the Wednesday before the Persian New year when people traditionally set off fireworks. Rouhi finds herself amidst a domestic dispute between her new boss and his wife. Transit Café by Kambozia Partovi is about an Iranian widow who rebels against the expectations of traditions by re-opening her late husband’s Europe / Asia border café. In The Passengers, directed by Behram Beiyzai ,a young woman’s wedding day becomes a ritual of mourning when her sister and family die in an auto accident. The Wind will Carry Us directed by Abbas Kiarostami is about a city engineer Behzad who comes to a rural village in Iran to keep vigil for a dying relative. The film follows his efforts to fit in with the local community and how he changes his own attitudes as a result. Suri says that they “tried to move away from Iranian New Wave films to understand the aesthetics of contemporary directors like Asghai Farhad and Kambozia Partovi.”

About curating in India, she says, “I feel the job of a film curator/programmer is yet to be understood and to be taken seriously in India, since they can be extremely crucial in shaping the cinema culture of our country. This a primary reason that in Delhi, every second week you will see a film screening but half of them would be empty or contain films that were simply shown for the sake of showing something. It’s not just about matter of loving a film; one needs the right reason, a solid discussion and a coherent team to push ideas beyond the established cannon.”

Does the global sidelining of Iran impact the reception or making of Iranian film, one wonders. Abbas Kiarostami was refused a visa when he had to attend the New York film festival as was Bahman Ghobadi for another festival. Suri thinks that geopolitical acts are condemned in the festival circuit. It has however created an interest in a “voyeuristic, curious or even a journalistic sense.” .

However, Iranian filmmakers work under the permanent shadow of censorship and this means their films have evolved in a constant attempt to sidestep the censors, to use metaphors, to tell childrens' stories. “Under the Islamic rule the restrictions were even more tightly compounded towards formulating a vision of the ‘Islamic state cinema’ that was guided with ethics and moral codes i.e. the freedom, expression and depiction of women onscreen. It’s due to such limitation that directors began shaping ideas on how to tackle problems of the society in a complete new aesthetic framework. Iranian directors have also potrayed children like no other country has. The innocence represented through Jafar Panahi’s White Balloon or through many of Abbas Kiarostami films cannot be outdone by any other director. Iran is a perfect example of how these limitations can give rise to masterpieces.”

(IRAN FILM FESTIVAL will be held at the Iran Culture House on August 5, 6 and 7.

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