Art And Culture

Foreign Guests Commend Iran Cinema, Fajr Festival

Foreign Guests Commend Iran Cinema, Fajr FestivalForeign Guests Commend Iran Cinema, Fajr Festival

One of the guests at this year’s Fajr International Film Festival (FIFF) is Godfrey Cheshire, an award-winning American film critic, journalist and filmmaker.

His writings about Iranian cinema have appeared in the New York Times, Variety, Newsweek, the Village Voice, Film Comment, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film International, and other publications.

“I think Iranian cinema has hit a lot of high marks since the late 1990s. It has bagged prizes at every major film festival. Asghar Farhadi has won two Oscars. Majid Majidi and Jafar Panahi also collected some prizes and some of their movies are very good,” he says.

According to the public relations office of the festival, he was among the first American critics to introduce the late Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami to the West.

Speaking about Kiarostami, who was paid tribute for three days since the festival opened on April 21, Cheshire said, “Many years ago I saw my first Kiarostami movie as part of the Iranian Film Festival in New York. There were many Iranian films. I was so surprised because I had never seen any Iranian films before and I saw many good ones by Bahram Beyzai, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Amir Naderi and many others. But Kiarostami’s ‘Close Up’ really stood out. It looked different and it was so fascinating. So that was the film that really intrigued me the most.”

When Kiarostami passed away last July, Cheshire was among the people who wrote a note on him. He has lots of memories of him too. “I went with him to Koker village, in Gilan Province, northern Iran (where Kiarostami made three of his films). He was full of life. It seems he enjoyed life so much. I was very moved by that.”

Over 350 foreign guests have come to Tehran to attend the 35th FIFF including filmmakers, producers, actors, festival directors, movie critics and journalists and almost all say they are pleased with the different sections and programs. This is the second time that the FIFF is held independently from the national section, and learning lessons from the shortcomings of the past edition, filmmaker Reza Mirkarimi, secretary of the event, and his team, have done their best to organize a festival close to world standards.

  Similarities in Iranian, Italian Films

Emmanuel Cuenod from Switzerland is the executive and artistic director of Geneva International Film Festival Tous Ecrans. “I am here to watch and select films for our festival. Last year we screened Iranian movies at the Geneva festival which won prizes, so I want to see other Iranian films,” he said.  

About the atmosphere of the FIFF and its main location, Charsou Cineplex in downtown Tehran, he said, “Actually it is really nice. I think it is good that everything is mostly in the same place. And for us it is better because we can see movies, meet film buyers and sellers, walk to the hotel (Ferdowsi International Grand Hotel located near the cinema) and rest and be back again. And the people are cool and very active.”

He is familiar with the works of Panahi, Kiarostami and Farhadi as well as young directors. “It is very interesting for me that the new generation of Iranian filmmakers tries and does things a bit differently. Sometimes at Geneva festival we have good films from Iranian filmmakers that are not famous.”

Comparing Iran cinema with European productions, Cuenod said, “I think there are many differences but you can also find some similarities between Iranian and Italian movies. For me a lot of elements are the same. For example, we screened an Iranian film last year in Geneva festival and it won the first prize. The name of the film was ‘Life and a Day’ and I think it has a lot of Italian elements.”

  Respecting Fajr

Lech Majewski is an A-list Polish film and theater director, writer, poet, and painter. He is a member of the American and European Film Academies. At this year’s Fajr, he serves as a jury member of the Cinema Salvation: International Competition.

On the selection of films in the competition, he said, “There is a wide range of movies and all of this makes it complicated for us to choose among them. As a jury member, I cannot talk about any title or film which I liked or disliked.”

Speaking about the importance of the festival, Majewski noted that he respects Fajr, because “Currently Iran has one of the leading films in the world. I remember talking to Werner Hertzog 20 years ago, when he was like a role model for everyone. He said that in near future good films would come from Iran and China. Years later, I was in a festival in Sao Paolo with my film ‘Life Hurts’. At one of the festival ceremonies, it was me, a director from Switzerland and eight Iranian filmmakers.”

  Following Int’l Standards

One of the members of the 35th FIFF Jury in the ‘Eastern Vista: Panorama of Films from Asian and Islamic Countries’ section is Omirbaev Darezhan Karazhanovich, a Kazakh film director, screenwriter and critic.

“This year’s run is in accordance with international standards. Everything is good and congenial, and films are at a high level,” he believes.

The 35th FIFF is underway in Tehran, April 21-28, at Charsou Cineplex as well as Felestin and Farhang cinemas.

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