Art And Culture

New Venue, New Flair at 34th Fajr Film Fair

Sports, Art & Culture Desks
New Venue, New Flair  at 34th Fajr Film FairNew Venue, New Flair  at 34th Fajr Film Fair

Local film enthusiasts and international guests at the Fajr International Film Festival (FIFF) are enjoying their time in the Iranian capital, Tehran, as the 34th edition has adopted a new approach in running the event.

These days the downtown Charsou Cineplex is busier than usual as it is the festival venue, just one year after its inauguration.

Over 3000 people daily visit the venue located at the intersection of Jomhoori and Hafez Streets in central Tehran, to attend the festival programs.

The American festival manager Brian Bennett, who has been running 9FilmFest in Bangkok, Thailand since 1999, is totally pleased with this year’s edition as he finds it “friendlier than ever.”

This is the fifth time he is partaking in the FIFF; however, this year he clearly feels the difference due to a number of factors.

“This is the first time the festival has a friendly atmosphere due to the new location in the heart of Tehran and more welcoming staff and touring programs have created a better chance to communicate with the people and experience the culture of the city,” Bennett told the Financial Tribune.

He calls it a big step to the further success for the event and believes that the organizers should follow the same approach in future editions.

As a festival manager, he says the number of movie premiers and attendance by famous stars does not guarantee the success of such an event.

“In the first 9FilmFest in 1999, we did not have any premieres and well-know guests, but by providing a pleasant environment, we managed to improve,” Bennett noted. Today, his festival is one of the leading short film events in Asia.

 Fantastic Experience

The Dutch film distributor Wim Dekker also talks fervently about the 34th edition.

He has been traveling to Iran since 2000 to purchase Iranian productions to show in his country. In his opinion, the location in the city center which makes street interaction with ordinary people easier - what they could never do while residing in uptown areas in previous editions - and tours to historical sites in Tehran can greatly help with a better understanding of the country.

Dekker, who likes Iranian food very much, told this newspaper, “Food is great and people are nice. This is fantastic. The foreign guests are like cultural ambassadors of Iran and when they return to their own countries and they can encourage others to travel to Iran too”.

Dekker has been screening Iranian movies in the Netherlands since mid 1990s when he started with Abbas Kiarostami and Abolfazl Jalili’s movies.

He believes that Iran cinema is good at storytelling and acting “is also perfect so the films appeal to the viewers.” Furthermore, as the themes are based on moral global issues, so the audience everywhere in the world can understand the story and sympathize with the characters. As two examples of such cinema, he named Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation’ and Pouran Derwakhshandeh’s ‘Hush! Girls Don’t Scream’.

 Fully Packed

As Ashkan Khatibi, the cineplex manager, told the Tribune “the reception has been far more than expectation as the five cinema halls are almost fully packed in many shows during the day and the workshops are overcrowded in some cases.

For the later editions he expects to have more important films screened and a larger number of industry professionals attending. “This is the first step of the international festival,” Khatibi said.

The festival secretary Reza Mirkarimi has blown a breath of fresh air into the old body of the major film event by implementing a series of changes in a bid to get it closer to the standards of ‘A’ level international festivals.

Under Mirkarimi’s watch, the new venue in mid-Tehran was selected to host the different programs; foreign guests are housed at a hotel close to the festival venue; and new sections were added. All the changes, a result of the management’s new approach, have been carried out for a more professional event to satisfy the audience.  The measures seem to have worked as claimed by local and foreign attendees.

 Tehran Tour

One of the programs on the sidelines of the festival is taking 200 foreign guests on tours everyday in the morning to ancient sites in Tehran such as the Grand Bazaar, Malek Museum, Golestan Palace, Museum of Post, Masoudieh Mansion and the National Museum.

This part has been warmly welcomed by the visitors as it helps them find out about the history of the country in whose international film festival they are partaking.

Currently, film screenings are underway from 10am to 12pm at Charsou Cineplex, specific workshops are held by renowned Iranian and international cineastes, 50 stalls are presenting their products at the Iran Film Market, and the jury members are watching films of the competition sections to announce the winners at the closing ceremony on Monday, April 25.