The second edition of the Iranian film festival in Paris was a chance to find out more about the many faces of contemporary Iranian cinema.
Arthouse theatre Le Nouvel Odeon played host to the event, screening a wide variety of feature, documentary, animation and shorts films by Iranian directors.
“There is an ‘S’ on the word cinema in the title of the festival because from the beginning our main goal was to promote films both from within Iran by showing independent Iranian cinema, but also films produced abroad over the past decade. So the idea was to create a dialogue between cinema from within and without Iran,” said the festival’s director Bamchade Pourvali.
Young Iranian filmmakers were invited to come and show their works to the Paris audience. Among them was Ali Ahmadzadeh with his first feature film ‘Kami’s Party’, a road movie about Iranian youngsters wandering from one party to another – the kind of content which prevented the film from obtaining an official screening permit.
“For me, a film becomes underground when the director decides to shoot without applying for an authorization or when he tries in vain to get one. I mean when the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance doesn’t allow us to shoot using the script that we have submitted, the film goes underground,” explained the young film director.
‘The Shell’ by Mostafa Aleahmad tells the story of a prisoner on a life sentence who is pardoned after 14 years behind bars when his innocence is proved. Produced in 2009, the movie has never been shown in Iranian cinema theatres, but was screened as part of a special section of the Paris festival dedicated to films banned under former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rule.
The festival’s co-director, Nader Homayoun, explained: “This special section, which we’ve called “the exhibition of rejects”, refers to impressionist painters who became world-famous artists but whose work the French state refused to show at their official arts fair (in 1963). This is the case for many Iranian filmmakers. So we thought this was an opportunity to show some of these works, which are extremely interesting both as movies but also because they are banned, so they give us an idea about the contradictions that rule Iran’s policy-making when it comes to culture,” he says.
Another “reject”, ‘Rainy Seasons’ by Majid Barzegar, tells the story of a teenager who ends up alone while his parents are busy getting divorced. Little by little, the young boy takes important life decisions.
Barzegar talks about the difficulties Iranian filmmakers face: “In order to create any kind of work, we need authorisation from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, it’s called a production permit. Once the film is made, we have to present it to another group within the same governing body called “the screening permit council”. Once they have watched the film, they can decide not to issue a screening permit for the film, even though it was granted a production permit,” he explains.
“The festival brought together a broad variety of films, that wouldn’t necessarily be granted screening permission under the Iranian film industry’s complex rules. Festivals like this are an opportunity for audiences to tackle clichés about Iranian film and get a more realistic and diverse picture of contemporary Iranian cinema,” said euronews’ correspondent at the festival, Arash Naimian.