Art And Culture

Independent Films Lack Overseas Market

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Almost all cinema halls in the world tend to screen commercial movies and there are very few halls to show and support independent and art-house films
Independent Films Lack Overseas MarketIndependent Films Lack Overseas Market

More than 12,000 professionals, including 3,200 producers, 1,200 salesmen, 1,750 buyers and 800 festival organizers, will come together at this year’s Cannes Film Market, the business part of the 70th Cannes Film Festival, (March 17-28).

Seven Iranian productions have so far been announced to be presented. The distribution company ‘Dreamlab Films’ will introduce six Iranian movies at the market slated for May 17-26, in the French resort city of Cannes.

They include fictions ‘Subdued’ by Hamid Nematollah, ‘Esrafil’ by Aida Panahandeh, ‘Searing Summer’ by Abrahim Irajzad, ‘Sunset Trunk’ by Abolfazl Saffari, ‘Maki’ by Naghmeh Shirkhan and the documentary  ‘Starless Dreams’ by Mehrdad Oskouei.

‘Panah’, directed by Ahmad Bahrami, is another film to be shown.

Producing over 100 films annually, Iran’s cinema industry has enough to feed the local audience whose numbers have increased considerably in recent years, and also has been competing in all A-level festivals besides winning major prizes for two decades.

However, regarding international sales, Iranian movies, except very few, have done poorly. In fact, the international awards have not guaranteed a profitable market for the films overseas and many of them have not even had the chance to be released abroad.

In an interview with the Financial Tribune, Mohammad Atebbai, director of the movie distribution company ‘Iranian Independents’, outlined the problems and obstacles in selling Iranian productions overseas.

“The international market for Iranian productions, which are considered as independent and art-house films, has shrunk. And this is not just about Iran cinema but such works across continents are facing problems in recent years,” he said.

Last September at Venice International Film Festival, he met with his compatriot distributor Hengameh Panahi, who runs the famous company Celluloid Dreams in Paris. Quoting her, Atebbai said, “She was very disappointed and said independent and art-house films had almost no share in the global market.”

“This is mostly because almost all cinema halls tend to screen commercial movies and there are very few halls to show and support independent films. On the other hand, people have chosen other ways to see such films and instead of going to cinemas may watch them in festivals or at home via VOD (video on demand, a system which allow users to select and watch/listen to video or audio content such as movies and TV shows when they choose to),” Atebbai pointed out.

  Too Much Hollywood

“It is regrettable that cinema complexes have almost entirely dedicated their halls to commercial productions, especially from Hollywood. And smaller cinemas, with one of two halls which usually screened art-house films, have either gone bankrupt competing with the cineplexes or have become one of them,” he noted.

Atebbai, who has handled promotion and marketing of hundreds of Iranian productions rued that there is no place left to show such films and as a result nobody buys them. In such circumstances, distributors of independent films are gradually decreasing globally.

“I remember, hardly 15 years ago, there was a potential foreign buyer for our celebrated filmmakers. Now, except for Asghar Farhadi, others have no such chance at all,” he said.

Iran cinema will participate in the 70th Cannes Film Festival with several films in different competitive and non-competitive sections as well as the film market.

Four films from Iran plus one by Iran-born American-based director will be screened in the five sections. ‘Dregs’ written and directed by Mohammd Rasoulof is Iran’s representative in the Un Certain Regard section.

The short production ‘Lunch Time’ directed by Alireza Ghasemi will compete in the Short Films Competition section. The short film ‘Animal’ directed by Bahman and Bahram Ark is Iran’s representative in the Cinefondation section.

‘24 Frames’, the last work of the late auteur Abbas Kiarostami (1940-2016) will be shown at the 70th Anniversary Events, and the Iranian-born American-based director Anahita Ghazvinizadeh’s ‘They’ will be shown in the Special Screenings section.

The animated film ‘Release from Heaven’ directed by animator and director Ali Noori-Oskouee will represent the nation at the Animation Day of the festival.


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