Iranian cinema has a vibrant past, and of late has proved resilient to the restrictions placed upon it by the Islamic Republic.
Last year at Cannes ‘The Past’, a Franco-Iranian production had its premiere. and Berenice Bejo won Best Actress for it. Director Asghar Farhadi has also been lauded in Hollywood. ‘A Separation’ won him an Oscar.
Now ‘The Past’ is on general release. It is an emotional drama about an Iranian man who returns to Paris to reconnect with his estranged wife. But after being separated from his ex-partner for four years, he becomes entangled with her new relationship.
Farhadi’s work is proving to be an inspiration to a growing number of young Iranians, keen to learn movie making skills.
The International Fajr Film Festival was held in Tehran recently. It is an important event that has been running for 32 years. This year work by young directors like Shahram Mokri and Amir Sagafi is being praised.
“This is great. This is a new generation of film-makers that is making very good movies. They are moving forward,” said actress Nikki Karimi.
Young cinema fans from remote areas arrive in Tehran having taken overnight buses and trains in order to attend film directing classes by Mokri, whose newly released ‘Fish and Cat’ has been making waves at various film festivals. The young director recently won awards at the Lisbon, Dubai and Istanbul film festivals.
Having one of the most successful cinema industries in the Middle East, Iranian productions are present in many prominent international film festivals.
The first Iranian silent film was made in 1930. It prompted a wave of interest from actors keen to become stars, but few were willing to take the technical and artistic path to becoming film-makers.
Now there are 64 private colleges and institutes in and around Tehran, which have recently extended their training programmes. There are also dozens of government-run colleges in and near the city.
At the Karnameh arts and cinema college for example, well known Iranian directors like Farhadi, Abbas Kiarostami and Nasser Taghvaei hold courses.
“The Oscar that Farhadi won marked the start of a new era for Iranian cinema: working closely with world cinema, and getting more international,” said Mokri.
Farhadi’s Oscar-winning ‘A Separation’ is about a married couple faced with a choice between moving abroad with their child or staying in Iran to look after a parent with Alzheimer’s.
Some 100 films are made in Iran annually.
Although the Iranian film industry is flourishing, its filmmakers have operated under censorship rules, both before and after the revolution. Some Iranian films that have been internationally acclaimed are banned in Iran itself.