Art And Culture

Need to Discover New Iran Film Directors

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“What is important in cinema is not what you see but what you do not see, what is not on the surface”
Jean-Michel FrodonJean-Michel Frodon

Well-known French journalist and critic Jean-Michel Frodon is participating in the Fajr International Film Festival (FIFF) in Tehran for the third time.

In a talk with the Financial Tribune, he said he has seen some movies and also attended many meetings so far. “This edition, I think, is much better organized than last year’s and there have been improvements. The venue (Charsou Cineplex in downtown Tehran) is very convenient and the display of various components of the festival is good,” he said.

On the importance of having premieres in a festival, Frodon, 62, said, “All the festivals in the world want to have premieres, but there are now thousands of festivals. Cannes Film Festival is due in less than a month and obviously many filmmakers will choose to go to Cannes (for their film debut, instead of bringing their films to Iran).”

“So I believe it is better to show good films even if they are not premieres. For instance, there is a very good Chinese film in the selection here. Of course I saw it in Busan International Film Festival but it is very nice that it is here because a lot of people have not seen it. So I think it is better to show good films and have guests (cast and crew) that come with them than insist on premieres.”

Organizers say 350 foreign guests are attending the 35th FIFF, (April 21-28) including film directors, producers and actors but not celebrities. This is a decision made by the festival secretary Reza Mirkarimi since he believes that prominent figures in cinema are not just the celebrity cast although famous movie stars can attract a large audience at any event.

When asked about his opinion in this regard, Frodon asserted, “I agree with him. He is right to focus on high-profile figures in terms of art and quality that contribute to the credibility of the festival. But there is still work to do, to have bigger names in terms of cine art.”

“And about the film stars, it is so difficult and expensive to have them here. They show up and then they vanish and nobody can approach them,” he added.

Frodon, former editor-in-chief of Cahiers du Cinema, the famous French film magazine, was a jury member at the FIFF 20 years ago. He attended the 34th edition last year too.

  Iran Cinema Has Proved Its Mettle

Iran cinema has proved its mettle in the world by winning almost all major film awards in the past decades. Responding to the query on his idea about status of Iran cinema today, Frodon said there was a golden age for Iran cinema when figures such as the late auteur Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Jafar Panahi and Bahman Qobadi won prizes.

“Now there is a problem, because everybody thinks that the movies today are not as good as before. But, you know, so many countries had never had even this (number of winner directors).”

“Nowadays, Asghar Farhadi is a recognized personality worldwide. In French we say, ‘one tree is hiding the forest’. Likewise, Farhadi is hiding the rest of Iranian filmmakers. Actually, it is more the attitude of westerners; when they have one Iranian director, they think it is enough, which is not fair, and it is very difficult to say ‘wait, there is not just one, there are more.’”

In his opinion, there is a need to discover younger and even not-so-young Iranian directors, and this is the work of film critics and journalists as well as festival organizers and distributors abroad to give voice and visibility to various kinds of directors.”

Speaking about Farhadi’s movies, he said he liked ‘The Salesman’ (which won the Oscar for the best foreign language film at the 2017 Academy Awards) more than ‘A Separation’ (won the Oscar in 2012). “I think it is stronger in terms of ‘what is not said and not shown’, because for me what is important in cinema is not what you see but what you do not see, what is not on the surface.”


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