SHIRIN NESHAT ‘FACING HISTORY’ EXHIBIT HELD IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

Shirin_Neshat_Munis_iranianfilmdailyAn exhibition in which filmmaker Shirin Neshat’s works of art, now-familiar photographs of humans and religion, feminism and history’s missteps are cobbled together in heterogeneous pièce montées to convey a reality often forgotten nowadays. Exhibit includes, notably, video installations by the artist – Ali Naderzad

Until September 20th.

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FACING MIRRORS: it’s TAXI meets THELMA AND LOUISE and it’s darn good

ghazalshakeri_iranianfilmdailyFACING MIRRORS (screenplay by Negar Azarbayjani and Fereshteh Taerpour; directed by Negar Azarbayjani); 100 min. (Iran).

With her husband in jail Rana (Ghazal Shakeri), a rebellious transsexual, is forced to work as a taxi in order to pay his debts. She avoids telling her family to spare herself from a dishonoring that’s certain. Enter Adineh (Shayesteh Irani). She needs to escape a forced marriage by any means. While her brother seems more understanding her father (played by Homayoun Ershadi) is very hard on her and shows no mercy. Adineh shall marry the man he chose and that’s that. Adineh offers Rana $300 US to take her to Kojoor, in northern Iran. Just as she thought she had accomplished her goals her family catches her up with her.

A social drama that highlights the feminine condition, MIRRORS, like TAXI earlier this year, confronts the viewer to the daily travails of Iranians who alternately fight against, or enforce, society’s traditions.

Director Negar Azarbayjani has directed a compelling film that frames difficult social issues. MIRRORS is a touching film that’s enhanced by the charisma of its two leading actresses – Ali Naderzad

Film is currently playing in limited theaters in France.

CANNES FESTIVAL | Ida Panahandeh, director of NAHID (interview)

Ida_Panahandeh

I met filmmaker Ida Panahandeh at the Cannes Festival in a year when Iran is opening wide to the international market with a brand-new pavilion at the Village International and a few months after a Jafar Panahi win at the last Berlinale for “Taxi.” 2015 could be a good year for Iranian cinema. This year’s Fajr Festival was split up, so that the international section took place a few weeks after Iranians’ films were shown, although I’m not sure if that particular event is a part of the opening up or not.

Panahandeh looked modest in appearance and wore barely any make-up, leading me to wonder if she’s usually like this or is it a “I’m being watched so I’m keeping it on the down low”  kind of thing. She is probably a low profile-type individual, preferring all the attention were directed at her work as a filmmaker, likely.

The Nahid of the title is played reliably well by Sareh Bayat, one of Iran’s actresses better-known internationally ever since appearing in Asghar Farhadi’s film A SEPARATION (2011). The number of women actresses who can carry an entire film is is in the low single digits: Leila Hatami, Baran Kosari and Bayat. Her Nahid gets angered, frustrated and anguished at the various indignities that her situation as a divorcee serves her up, NAHID providing yet another peek into Iran’s social attitudes towards women, marriage and family.

The woman struck a deal. She can keep her boy, as long as she remains celibate. But here’s the kicker: there’s a man she has a liaison with, that which threatens to ruin the fragile equilibrium of her life. “Sigheh,” or the arranged marriage which Nahid and her love interest (played by Pejman Bazeghi) chooses as an option to circumvent her agreement with her ex-husband is not, as could be inferred, the central theme of the film. This is something that Panahandeh emphasized during our conversation together. “The core of the film’s narrative is that it is a drama, about love.”

The filmmaker added, “although it is legal under Islamic law, sigheh is very strongly frowned upon in Iranian society.”

I asked the filmmaker about the financials of making the film and territories sold. Besides noting that French rights had been sold already, Panahandeh knew next to nothing about the business end of her film and deferred questions to the film’s producer who hasn’t responded to several email inquiries, so it’s a wash. In the U.S and France, where I interview filmmakers regularly, if asked a filmmaker on a small-budget film would immediately come up with funding sources and sales when asked. Is that simply a matter of Iranian reserve, or an heightened sense of division of labor?

The most memorable part of the interview came up when I asked Panahandeh about working with her contributors, co-screenwriter Arsalan Amiri, soundtrack composter Majid Pousti and director of photography Morteza Gheidi. Panahandeh gushed over the strengths of her collaborators’ work, saying this was the best possible team she could’ve assembled together for the film.

She had three possible actresses in mind for the role of Nahid, one of whom was Bayat. She wouldn’t tell me who the other ones were. Rakhshan Banietemad gave a strong show of confidence in favor of Bayat, which possibly helped the filmmaker in her making a final decision.

The film, which has gotten its exhibition permit, will be screened in Iran this summer, although it hasn’t been specified exactly when. “The Eid-e fetr period, after Ramadan, is the best time for a film to screen in Iran.”

When she came on stage for the premiere of the film a few days ago, I was struck by Panahandeh’s self-confidence. She spoke English nearly fluently and thanked her crew, fest’s Thierry Frémaux and Christian Jeune as well as her parents. She told me during our interview together that she was used to speaking in public and had been to many film festivals before.

Panahandeh already has a decade of filmmaking behind her, a number of prizes and awards and some festival mileage. One thing that did surprise the filmmaker, however, was seeing Cannes audiences crying after the screening of her film. She told me, “Iranians don’t show emotions in public so that was quite amazing to watch.” – Ali Naderzad

(photo: AN)

SOHEILA POURMOHAMMADI to direct new film about Air Force hero Eghbali Dogaheh

soheilapourmohammadi_iranianfilmdailyWhen he was killed during combat operations against Iraq during the eight year-war that took place in the eighties Seyed Ali Eghbali Dogaheh had been the Iranian Air Force’s youngest flight instructor. He taught others to fly combat aircrafts and made senior officer grade at 27. After his death Eghbali Dogaheh became a folk figure in Iran’s pantheon of revolutionary fervor, a bona fide martyr who perished under awful conditions after his capture by Iraq’s Baath forces.

Three decades later, Soheila Pourmohammadi, a filmmaker with over a dozen documentary films to her credit, has decided to direct a documentary film about the life of Eghbali Dogaheh. She recently met with relatives of the fallen pilot and has started working on the project, with shooting slated to begin later this summer – Ali Naderzad

soheilapourmohammadi_2_iranianfilmdaily

DESIREE AKHAVAN to head up this year’s Queer Palm jury

desireeakhavan_iranianfilmdailyDesiree Akhavan, the impossibly-cool and inappropriately-funny filmmaker who directed the feature film “Appropriate Behavior” and starred in the TV series “The Slope” and “Girls” will preside over this year’s Queer Palm as was announced some time ago (well, better late than never).

Founded by journalist Franck Finance-Madureira the Queer Palm is the equivalent of the Teddy Awards, the annual awards that are held during the Berlinale to curate films evoking homosexuality in cinema.

After the awfully-good “L’Inconnu du Lac” directed by Alain Guiraudie in 2013 the 2014 Queer Palm jury awarded “Pride,” by the British director Matthew Warchus.

Several films in this year’s competition program at Cannes are in the running for the Queer Palm:

Among them are, “Carol” by Todd Haynes, “Marguerite and Julien” by Valérie Donzelli and “Love” by Gaspar Noé. A Queer Palm for the best short film will also be awarded.

Akhavan’s jury will this year include Ava Cahen, journalist and the editor of “Clap” and columnist at “Circle” on French cable channel Canal Plus, Nadia Turincev (co-producing partner of actress and producer Julie Gayet, Rouge International), the Belgian critic Elli Mastorou (“The Future” and “Marie-Claire” in Belgium) and the actress Laetitia Eido.

IRAN makes overture to regional neighbors close and far, wants to establish international co-production office

fajrfestival_iranianfilmdailyThe heads of of various regional film festivals met yesterday during a roundtable entitled “International Seminar of Top Cinema Officials” at the ongoing International section of the 33rd Fajr Festival in order to discuss the possibility of establishing co-productions between Iran and their respective countries.

According to a press release made available by the festival following the panel meeting, film industry people from Russia, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Tajikistan, Georgia, Syria, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Senegal, Iraq, Singapore, and Poland participated in the panel with a view to facilitate co-production relationships and promote transnational cooperation. More specifically, they agreed to support the screening and distribution of the participating countries’ productions in their own countries, establish a database listing crews, facilities, and film locations from all participating countries, ratify Iran’s initiative for establishing a permanent secretariat that would oversee the multilateral effort, launch a proposal that would establish a fund, hold training courses and workshops and exchange students and university professors.

With its funding help this type of co-production scheme could help lift many regional filmmakers from total obscurity and gratify them with a chance at some exposure on the festival circuit – Ali Naderzad

SHAKEDOWN AT THE FAJR FESTIVAL, Rezadad gets the boot, Heydari to head next year’s fest

Alireza Rezadad
Alireza Rezadad

Why did he do it? Why did Alireza Rezadad step down from his current post as director of the Fajr Festival. You’re heading the country’s primo film festival, you’re in apparent good health, and you walk away from that post? Say what now?

There’s trouble in paradise as far as I’m concerned. Did somebody somewhere in Iran’s political establishment get pissed off about Rezadad’s performance and a result Rezadad got the boot?

In more specific terms, Rezadad will not be running the show next year. Mohammed Heydari has been named as his successor via an official decree from Iran’s Film Organization, headed by Hojatollah Ayyoubi, that was released yesterday. The statement thanked Rezadad for his efforts in organizing “the country’s greatest cultural event.” Heydari will oversee next year’s Fajr, which’ll be its thirty-fourth edition. So what happened?

Mohammad Heydari
Mohammad Heydari

Trying to gauge sentiment among Iran’s clerics is like playing wack-a-mole with your hands tied behind your back. It ain’t gonna happen. Unpredictability has always ruled the day here, and so until further news becomes available speculating will be just that. Of note is the fact that Heydari will be the twelfth person to take charge of Fajr (turnover’s a bitch in Iran).

I’ve tracked news media inside Iran and was amazed by how perfectly every news media (I’ve read a dozen) has replicated the official press release, without nary an original comment, a question or an analysis. The truth will out. I’m just not sure when – Ali Naderzad