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Mix of Realism & Pathology

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Mix of Realism & Pathology
Mix of Realism & Pathology

The book ‘Under the Skin of Tales’ by film critic and screenwriter Saeed Aqiqi, a survey on the reflection of reality in Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s movies was unveiled at Khaneh (House) of Cinema in Tehran on May 28.

Bani-Etemad, 62, is one of Iran’s internationally and critically acclaimed filmmakers who has received several international awards for her movies which are steeped in social issues in Iran.

The event was attended by a large number of artists and film fans.

In a short speech at the ceremony, she censured the superficial approach of people who believe she should not venture into social issues and comment on them as a filmmaker. “Cinema is an important means to inform and uplift the society.”

Reza Mirkarimi, managing director of Khaneh Cinema, said that realism in Iran cinema needs to be discussed more comprehensively, but the author Aqiqi has done a great job by probing into different kinds of realism in Bani-Etemad’s films.

“She is familiar with the pain and suffering she depicts in her films as she has seen people around her who have endured great misery. What she shows us is not fictional and is pleasing to watch,” Mirkarimi noted, adding that the long discourse at the end of the book between the author and the director helps readers, especially film fans, understand more about social cinema in Iran.

In the book, the author has combined his approach toward realism in cinema, sociological criticism and structural aspects to review Bani-Etemad’s films. The book title has come from two of her films ‘Under the Skin of the City’ and ‘Tales’.

It discusses how Bani-Etemad uses real documents to write stories for her movies and how much her films are close to reality and focus on the role of women.

Aqiqi said the book was the product of extensive research on the social history of Iran cinema which he started about six years ago.

Referring to Bani-Etemad’s 30 years of experience in Iran cinema, the veteran documentarian Homayoun Emami said, “She is going on a path where a slight mistake can lead to misunderstanding and bring about dire consequences and charges against her; but she has never been anxious about taking risks to show what she has witnessed around her.”

He believes that one of the main components of Bani-Etemad films “is the critical look and pathological approach to social matters.” She is “the conscious conscience of her time”.

 Realities of Daily Life

In her works, she aims to reflect the realities of Iranian people’s daily life experiences. She usually focuses on female characters at the lower-end of the economic ladder who struggle to make a living. She highlights the strength and resilience of Iranian women as the hope for the future of the country.

The veteran actress Golab Adineh, who has acted in four of Bani-Etemad’s films, said that the director was firm in her convictions throughout the years and has adopted a kind approach toward bitter social issues.

Answering a section of the people who have criticized Bani-Etemad movies for showing mostly the dark side of the society with crime, poverty, and corruption, Adineh, who is close to the director said, “Pages of daily newspapers are full of bitter social incidents but Bani-Etemad has a compassionate look at the events and her films make the viewers see the characters’ misery and destitution through the same filter of kindness”.

Bani-Etemad’s latest drama ‘Tales’ which was subject to huge criticism before screening inside the country on the same pretext was finally shown in Iran last year. Outside the country; however, it experienced great success as it won the Jury Grand Prize at the 2014 Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA), the Best Film award at the 2014 Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) and the Best Screenplay award at the 2014 Venice Film Festival.

She sees herself as a social worker who feels the pain of sufferers and tries to show it to others in a bid to raise awareness among the public and officials, especially the powers that be.

In a philanthropic gesture two years ago, she donated her APSA prize to a charity to support homeless people. The act triggered a movement which was followed by a large number of Iranian artists and cultural figures as well as a few foreign scientists.

The function concluded with Bani-Etemad and Aqiqi signing the book published by Rowzaneh Publications, for the fans.

When asked for a brief interview by this reporter, she said she does not answer questions as she has said everything in her films and the long interview published in the book would probably be her last.