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23rd Festival of Films for Children and Young Adults (Hamedan, August 2-7, 2009)
A Candle in the Wind
by Shahin Shajari-Kohan

This year, many participants and film writers who had attended past editions of the festival talked nostalgically about the old days as if the festival would never regain its past glory; the years when the festival was held in Isfahan and turned into a major rival for Fajr International Film Festival. The fervor of festival as it was held in Isfahan is now nostalgia. Although films screened in those years were sometimes more varied and of higher quality compared to current films and the festival was further enriched by presence of foreign guests who brought films from five continents, it should be admitted that the people and city of Hamedan had done their best during the current year, as they did in past years, to hold a respectable festival and if diversity of films and subsidiary events seemed to be less striking than Isfahan, the reason should be sought somewhere outside Hamedan. Changes in schedule and management of the festival (just a few days before it kicked off) and social upheavals following the presidential election weighed heavily on this year’s festival.
For years, children’s cinema has been relatively stagnant in Iran. Even if a film is made for that age group, it is either the work of perseverant filmmakers who love cinema or is made by governmental and semi-governmental entities which just want to fill up their annual performance reports. Children’s cinema, which was once a major influence in the Iranian cinema is now grappling with a host of known and unknown problems regarding capital, production, and screening just in the middle of its long hibernation and no firm will to resolve those problems is visible on the horizon. The only hope for the cinema of children and young adults is this festival and few films which keep this genre going. Under these circumstances, if Hamedan were not the sole option for the venue of the festival, it was certainly the best. Enthusiasm shown by people of Hamedan for cinema and filmmakers, heavy costs undertaken by the city and efforts made by its managers to attract good films from Iran and elsewhere are positive points of the festival and there is no guarantee that such conditions exist in other provinces. On the whole, international competition films were not top notch, but there was a varied collection from many countries which prevented further fall in quality of the festival. Non-competitive sections, especially an exhibition of computer games, were among attractions.
Most guests were from Asian countries while there were others from Tunisia, Brazil, and Greece. Presence of famous actors and actresses like Mahaya Petrosian, Massoud Keramati, Merila Zare’ei, Ali Shah-Hatami, and Giti Khamenei, the nostalgic presenter of television’s children programs in 1980s, had made the whole event more pleasing. Subsidiary sections were of acceptable quality. Every day, there were a number of press interviews and specialized meetings to analyze films which were attended by critics and film writers. Other events which were entertaining to children included on-street performances, cost-free small and big exhibits, and competitions for children and adolescents including a gathering for children to draw paintings on the street and to have their faces made up in a fantastic way. The make-up event, which usually turns into a problem in Tehran due to long lines of children and shortage of skillful make-up artists, was properly managed in Hamedan. From the second day on, almost every small child had some kind of make-up on their faces and seemed quite happy. Caravans had been launched in different parts of the province just a few days before the festival and puppet characters met with children. The festival officials admitted that overall quality of films was not high enough to attract a lot of young viewers. Therefore, they had added “most favorite animations in history of cinema” as a subsidiary section in which a number of famous features made by such companies as Disney and Pixar were screened. “Master of comedy” was another section which was supposed to both attract comedy fans and to populate the schedule. This has become common to festivals in the past few years that they try to make up for quality by increasing quantity.

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