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Report: Culture

Iranian movies in focus at French Asian fest

Still from "Melbourne" by Nima Javidi
Still from "Melbourne" by Nima Javidi DR/

A new generation of filmmakers are taking Iran’s cinema industry in a new direction says a major promoter of Iranian independent films. Nine recent films from Iran screened at the International Festival of Asian Cinema, also known as Fica, in the town of Vesoul.


One, Melbourne (2014), directed by Nima Javidi is in the main competition for the Golden Cyclo award.

Six films are programmed in a dedicated independent Iranian film section. The oldest one was made just four years ago.

It’s a first feature by Mohsen Abdolvahab, who’s been in the film business however since the 1980s. It’s called Do Not Disturb. One of the most recent ones from 2014, and which has already featured on the international festival circuit is, I Am Not Angry by Reza Dormishan.

Mohammad Attebai is the founder of Iranian Independents, representing the films in this section, he says the latest generation of film makers in the country are giving the film industry a new lease of life, with or without a budget, “they are trying to avoid copying their predecessors, they have access to internet, and can see the work of masters of cinema; they are moving into genres that are new to Iran, like comedy or horror and they remain concerned about social and political issues.”

Two Iranian films are also included in this year’s theme section, Hold Your Breath, among thrillers from across Asia, from Turkey and Israel to Japan.

They are Goodbye from 2009, and Manuscripts Don’t Burn made in 2013. Both in the Certain Regardsection at Cannes, they won prizes in their respective years and are written and directed by Fica international jury member from Iran, Mohammad Rasoulof.

He was arrested in 2010 with director Jafar Panahi when they were working on a film which displeased the authorities. Rasoulof served one year of a six-year jail sentence.

Goodbye from 2009, tells the story of a woman who goes to great lengths to combat her loss of freedoms while her journalist husband is in jail.

Manuscripts Don’t Burn made in 2013, is about writers muzzled by the security services - and pursued by one man in particular, after a failed attempt to get rid of them some years earlier. It’s dramatically convincing and disturbing.

Rasolof says that while he drew on fact for Manuscripts and Goodbye, they are works of fiction, and not political.

“I look for situations, happening to ordinary people,” he says, “the stories are inspired by facts, but I don’t intend to make political films. People say they are, but that surprises me.”

Shahala Nahid, a specialist of Iranian cinema sees his films differently, “They are political. Manuscripts is a unique film about murders of writers where each writer actually represents a group of artists or intellectuals. Politics is in everyday life.”

Vesoul is one stop for Rasoulof’s films on the long international film festival-tour where they spark emotion and discussion about amongst other things -- freedom of expression.

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