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Curtain Falls on 35th Fajr Film Festival

From top left clockwise: Alireza Davoudnejad, Leila Hatami, Merila Zarei, Mohammad Hossein Mahdavian, Vahid Jalilvand, Mohsen Tanabandeh and Navid MohammadzadehFrom top left clockwise: Alireza Davoudnejad, Leila Hatami, Merila Zarei, Mohammad Hossein Mahdavian, Vahid Jalilvand, Mohsen Tanabandeh and Navid Mohammadzadeh

The annual Fajr Film Festival (FFF) came to an end on Thursday at Tehran’s Milad Tower by awarding the best of cinematic productions in the past year. 

At the closing ceremony of the 35th edition marred by complaints and criticism, a total of 10 films, among the 35 entries in the main competition section, shared the 21 Simorgh (Iranian mythical flying creature) awards in different categories.

‘Midday Story’ directed by the young filmmaker Mohammad Hossein Mahdavian,  35, won five major awards including four Crystal Simorghs for the best film of the festival, best film by viewers’ choice, best costume design and best set design, and a Golden Simorgh for the best film with a ‘National View.’’ Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced the name of the movie on stage.

The film, which was nominated in nine categories, is a political trailer dealing with the banned Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) that carried out many terrorist attacks during the 1980s to overthrow the ruling establishment after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

With rave reviews from critics and high acclaim from the public, the movie was unanimously appreciated by experts and fans,  a repeat of the success of Mahdavian’s first film ‘Standing in the Dust’ which won four awards, including the best film and best set and costume design, in last year’s festival.

Another big winner was ‘Ferrari’ by veteran director Alireza Davoudnejad, 63, which grabbed four Crystal Simorghs, for the best actor, best script, best sound recording and jury’s special prize.

The latest film by Davoudnejad, had eight nominations. It tells the story of a young girl trying to win a bet, who comes to Tehran to take a photo with a Ferrari.

Next on the list were three films, ‘Undated, Unsigned’ by Vahid Jalilvand, ‘Subdue’ by Hamid Nematollah and ‘Villa Residents’ by Monir Qeidi that each bagged three awards. ‘The Hot Summer’ by Ebrahim Irajzad, which had a record of 13 nominations, won just two awards, same as Pouran Derakhshandeh’s new film ‘Under the Smoky Ceiling’ (six nominations).

‘Negar’ by Rambod Javan sufficed with one award out of eight nominations. The movies ‘Asphyxia’ by Fereydoun Jeyrani and ‘A Special Day’ by Homayoun Asadian were also among the winners for special effects. Arash Aqabeig won the best special effect award for the two movies plus ‘Subdue’.

  Strong Objections 

This year’s festival was one of the most challenging in recent years as there were strong objections by cineastes and critics from the beginning to the end, and protests against the selection committee for failing to select movies by well-known directors. This was described as ‘strange’ and ‘unfair’ by many figures, even those among the nominees.

However at the closing ceremony, winners on stage defended the festival jury and criticized those who disrupted the efforts of organizers and insulted the jury members, by especially thanking them.

Winner of the best supporting actor award for ‘Undated, Unsigned’, Navid Mohammadzadeh said, “The jury members are among the veterans of (Iran) cinema and we should respect them.”

Referring to the ‘leak’ of the winners’ list before its due announcement on some websites, he said, “These are hideous deeds.”

The young talented actor, 30, who won the same award last year for the hit movie ‘Life+1 Day’ added, “This is a precious prize and I like to come here again, even if I’m not nominated next year, as I have to respect (the jury decision)”.

Vahid Jalilvand, who won the best director award for his second film ‘Undated, Unsigned,’ sharply rebuked state broadcaster IRIB and especially the cinema program ‘Haft’ (literally meaning seven). Addressing its host Behrouz Afkhami, also a filmmaker and its critic Masoud Farasati, he said, “You tried your best to divide cineastes and make us hostile to one another. But we love each other.”

He was pointing to the TV program broadcast during the festival every night where Afkhami and Farasati trashed almost all of the films and attacked the jury viciously for their nomination list.

After receiving his Golden Simorgh award, Davoudnejad also singled out the attitude of the state-owned radio and TV organization (IRIB) toward the film industry. “Why does the state TV try to create tension instead of supporting the festival and the passion of the youth towards it? The answer is simple. When the national TV does not buy our films, does not publicize our films, does not broadcast our movies…and instead broadcasts Hollywood movies, how do you expect it to support us? In such circumstances, it is an insult and represses Iran cinema. But I hope this hostile stance ends,” he told the ceremony. 

Veteran actress Soraya Qasemi, 77, who won the best supporting actress award for ‘Villa Residents,’ was not present.

Mohsen Tanabandeh won the best actor award for ‘Ferrari’. 

Appreciating all the five nominees in the best actress category, the jury awarded two crystal Simorghs to Leila Hatami for her performance in ‘Subdue’ and Merila Zarei for ‘Under the Smokey Ceiling’.

“There are some points to say but Navid referred to them,” Zarei said. “I am honored to receive my third Simorgh at a festival whose poster is adorned with the picture of the poet of Iran cinema and stand (here) beside his legacy”.

She was referring to the poster of the 35th FFF depicting the late filmmaker Ali Hatami (1944-1996). His only daughter Leila shared the award with Zarei.

Although the ceremony was mostly in favor of the festival organizers, some of the reactions on cyberspace by cineastes and critics towards a group of the winners suggest that the domestic film industry too has its fair share of disagreements and dissensions. 

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