Baran Kosari, Iran’s leading actress, was recently seen at the Kourosh cinematheque in Tehran for a screening of the Jamshid Mahmoudi-helmed “A few cubic meters of love” (2014), which stars Hasiba Ebrahimi, Nader Fallah and Masoud Mirtaheri. Film is Afghanistan’s official submission to the 87th Academy Awards 2015 in the Foreign Language film category.
Three films have been selected for this year’s Berlinale as was announced today. “Taxi” by Jafar Panahi, Ali Ahmadzadeh’s “Atom heart mother” (starring Taraneh Alidoosti and Pegah Ahangarani) and “A minor leap down,” which was directed by Hamed Rajabi and stars Negar Javaherian.
“Taxi” is the latest film to be issued from the filmmaker’s legacy of active dissent, in the same lineage “This is Not a Film,” which was smuggled out of Iran on an USB key hidden in a cake and “Closed Curtain,” about two fugitives hiding in a house on the Caspian Sea, which was in competition in Berlin 2013. If ever an Iranian filmmaker learned to use political tyranny to his advantage it is Jafar Panahi, and filmdom should be thankful for this.
Panahi was detained in 2010 and then placed under house arrest. Eventually he was prohibited from leaving the country and making movies for twenty years.
This time around, the filmmaker circumvents the ban by turning a yellow cab into a mobile film studio with a camera placed on the dashboard.
As the cab drives through the vibrant and colorful streets of Tehran, it picks up a diverse mix of passengers, who speak candidly with the driver, played by Panahi.
In a statement released on the director’s behalf by Celluloid Dreams, a small outfit handling international rights for the film, the filmmaker thus explained his reasons for continuing to defy the ban:
“I’m a filmmaker. I can’t do anything else but make films.”
Paris-based Celluloid Dreams has managed rights for other Panahi films in the past – Ali Naderzad
Reza Mirkarimi, whose film “Today” has been making the rounds of festivals and getting Mirkarimi further acknowledged as an established arthouse director, was interviewed recently at Rotterdam Fest by Screen Daily. Here’s what he had to say about the approach to iranian cinema in Iran.
“There is a supportive politics in Iranian cinema which does not allow American movies to be shown in the theatres,” he said. “The cinemas work for Iranian movie makers. Art movies have more opportunity to be shown.”
Speaking about the extraordinary success of Asghar Farhadi’s 2012 “A Separation,” capped by an Oscar win, Mirkarimi further commented that,
“It (the Oscar) had a positive impact,” he said. “Iranian cinema was already known in many countries around the world but it had never managed to win a prize of this magnitude. This has opened up a more international distribution of Iranian cinema.”
Quotes taken from the Screen Daily article.
While back in Iran things have settled down and mentionable filmmakers are keeping a low profile or wrapping up projects in utmost secrecy, there’s much to talk about on the English-speaking front. 2014 was a big year and 2015 holds the promise of even more attention being devoted to American- and British- Iranians.
Los Angeleno director Ana Lily Amirpour broke unto the scene last year quickly becoming the indie film world’s darling thanks to her film “A girl walks home alone at night.” Filmmakers like Kevin Hamedani, Emilie Froozan and U.K-based Babak Jalali are all working on their next films and Desiree Akhavan, whose film is the ridiculously-funny “Appropriate behavior,” recently got talked about in the Washington Post.
In an interview Akhavan talks about her experiences–positive and negative–finding her way in an already-crowded field of independent cinema, from a failed initial run as an acting hopeful and becoming a screenwriter, director and lead actress in her own right (link to Washington Post article at the end). Some choice quotes follow – Ali Naderzad
“When I was first getting started, I was only hoping that people would watch what I created, or would even want to,” she says. “Now that I see this audience, I realize that there are people out there who either relate or are at least interested in what I have to say.”
“I remember sitting in this office, and this woman first asked me if I could speak Arabic, and I said no, and then she asked me if I played basketball, and I just stared at her,” she says. “I quickly realized that I wanted to firstly be in a profession that didn’t rely on your looks.”
“Literally the only film I saw growing up that had anything to do with Iran was ‘Not Without My Daughter,’ ” says Akhavan, who now calls Manhattan’s Upper West Side home. “And when I came out [of the closet], I had no touchstone in my community, so I wanted to make a film for people like me.”
Reza Mirkarimi’s film “Today,” Iran’s film in the running for an Oscar in the Foreign Film section, got an eloquent review in Variety recently. Call me naive but when the Hollywood press establishment waxes poetic about Iranian cinema, it should be hoped that that cinema will be seen by the largest audience, ultimately. Factor in a possible win and then all bets are off (that said, films that are nominated have done better at the box office, traditionally, than those than actually take some gold home).
Aw shucks, let me not get ahead of myself. Iranian cinema is specialty fare and will probably be shown in major markets only, i.e., New York (Angelika, Film Forum, Sunshine, here’s looking at you) and L.A., and that’d be just as swell (and Iran’s filmmakers getting some ink in Variety is invaluable, clearly).
The 2015 Academy Awards will take place on February 22nd.
Below, a quote from the Variety article penned by Dennis Harvey (link to article at the end) – Ali Naderzad
“Today” is terse and unadorned in nearly all aspects. That rigor lends slow-burning impact to a story (and in particular an ending) that might easily have been played for mawkish sentimentality. Houman Behmanesh’s crisp lensing is the dominant element in the professionally assembled package; there’s no music at all until a bedside conversation provides some belated emotional release for the two leads, its poignancy aptly underlined by Amin Honarmand’s score.
See full article here: http://variety.com/2015/film/reviews/film-review-today-1201404172/
Kaveh Bakhtiari’s “Stop over,” Mohammed Rasoulof’s “Manuscripts don’t burn” (film was screened at the 2013 Cannes Festival in the Un Certain Regard program) as well as Shahram Mokri’s “Fish and cat” are among the films chosen to headline this year’s The Boston Festival of Films from Iran taking place next week.
According to fest site, “this compelling, provocative annual festival offers varying perspectives by Iran’s top filmmakers on the complexities of Persian life and culture.” Properly-calibrated public relations messaging, if there ever was. Instead, how about using, “this year’s festival puts the vagaries of humanhood and the difficulties of dealing with increasing and unpredictable rules, front and center”? There is a need for rules, they’re called law and in civilized society they work, most of the time, at helping do good for the largest possible number. At other times, there’s a need to go around them, as many of these films show us. Most, if not all, of the dozen works presented in this program center around far-reaching social and societal problems that have the potential to affect anyone. These films’ appeal is universal and the problems highlighted in them deserve to get our attention. This kind of cinema offers a welcome perspective unto the ills, as well as the possible solutions–and thankfully so – Ali Naderzad
Fest runs January 16-25. Screening schedule and ticket information here: http://www.mfa.org/programs/series/boston-festival-films-iran-0
Kaveh Daneshmand, the artistic director of the Festival of Iranian Films (FIF) which is currently taking place in the Czech Republic founded the festival four years ago. The festival takes place in two installments, currently in Prague and in Brno during January 13-15.
On selecting films for the festival Daneshmand told local media The Prague Post, “we are working on a very low budget, almost no budget, so most of the work here is based on a lot of favors and friendships. It’s not always easy to get all the films we love; but this year, I would say I am the happiest, in terms of the program. It has almost 90% of what we really wanted. Almost all the films that we wanted [ended up] in the festival program.”
This year’s fest, held under the banner of “Rebels of Iranian Cinema,” includes twenty films by young filmmakers, a quarter of whom are women.
Some of the films being shown this year include “Fish and cat,” “Snow” and “A girl walks home alone at night.” – Ali Naderzad
For Shirin (Desiree Akhavan), being part of a perfect Persian family isn’t easy. Acceptance eludes her from all sides: her family doesn’t know she’s bisexual, and her ex-girlfriend, Maxine (Rebecca Henderson), can’t understand why she doesn’t tell them. Even the six-year-old boys in her moviemaking class are too ADD to focus on her for more than a second. Following a family announcement of her brother’s betrothal to a parentally approved Iranian prize catch, Shirin embarks on a private rebellion involving a series of pansexual escapades, while trying to decipher what went wrong with Maxine.
Iranian-American filmmaker Desiree Akhavan is the co-creator and star of the award-winning web series “The Slope,” a comedy that follows a pair of superficial homophobic lesbians in love. She was recently featured as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Film as well as Vanity Fair’s “Persia in New York” featuring the vibrant scene of Iranian artists flourishing in America, centered in New York. Akhavan can be seen next January on the fourth season of HBO’s “Girls.”
Gravitas Ventures Will Release “Appropriate Behavior” theatrically and on VOD on January 16th.