FIPRESCI Critsics' Perspective on Iranian Independent Cinema (Part- Nine)

Ron Fogel
University Lecturer and Film Critic

How much do you know about Iranian culture? Do you know any Iranian artists out of the field of cinema?
- I was in love with movies before becoming a critic and lecturer. I watched a lot of foreign films, and among them, I came across Majid Majidi’s The Color of Paradise. I was so impressed by the narrative, story, cinematography, and realistic performances of the cast. I was touched by the pain of the main character and his father due to his blindness. The film occasionally showed a good balance between man and nature, in my opinion.

What do you think are the most important matters that Iranian independent filmmakers should work on?
- I can name a few. Firstly, it shows the life of normal and even poor people who are struggling to stay alive. It is obvious in almost all of the movies I’ve watched.
Secondly, trying to solve the conflicts on their own. For instance, the man’s effort to find the intruder on his own in Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, or, people’s efforts to find the missing girl alone in Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces.
Thirdly, using children as the protagonists and heroes just like Kiarostami’s early works.
And finally, films that are shut in the suburbia like Mohammad Rasoulof’s A Man of Integrity and There is No Evil.

What are the main factors for the success of Iranian cinema at variety of film festivals in the world?
- First, I must name the high quality of the films. Also, I think all cinema lovers around the world would like to know the process of filmmaking in Iran, despite censorship and restrictions. Screening Iranian films at festivals is a reminder of freedom of speech and art. I also think that foreign audiences can easily connect with Iranian films since they can see how an ordinary person (not wealthy or powerful) leaves his ordinary life behind in search of a new adventure.

Which of the Iranian filmmakers do you like the most?
- I like Jafar Panahi’s works. I’m amazed by his ability to make movies with the minimum amount of tools and equipment. His style, which I believe is a mixture of documentary and neorealism, is extremely interesting to me. From his early works, such as The White Balloon he’s dealt with the women’s situation in Iran. For me, movies like Taxi and 3 Faces are cinematic miracles because they are a testament to the fact that even within the constraints, a true filmmaker can make a movie.

Which cinematic movements in the world, whether before or after the Islamic Revolution, have influenced Iranian cinema?
- In my opinion, Iranian cinema is influenced by French New Wave and Italian Neorealism. I’m not familiar with pre-revolution films in Iran, but I can recognize these effects on Iranian cinema in the past three decades, based on its experimental approach and usage of rookie actors, especially in the works of Kiarostami.

Are you familiar with the new generation of Iranian filmmakers?
- I can name Panah Panahi, Jafar Panahi’s son, whose Hit the Road title I watched at Cannes. It was an impressive comedy film which, I think, is so much inspired by his father’s style.

What is your opinion regarding the status of women in Iranian cinema?
- Surprisingly, there are many great female filmmakers in Iranian cinema, most of whom have already emigrated from the country.
Two of the most significant ones for me are Samira Makhmalbaf and Marjan Satrapi; Samira was amazing with her film The Apple, which she made when she was only 17, and Marjan portrayed an interesting image of life in Iran and the Islamic revolution era with Persepolis. Although I consider Iran to be a patriarchal country, female directors can work in Iran and have a place there.

What do you think is the future for independent filmmakers in Iran?
- Unfortunately, I see a vague and unstable future for an independent Iranian cinema. In a country where some of the films made by famous directors do not have a chance to be released, it seems that most young artists prefer to avoid filmmaking or choose other, less troublesome professions.

[FIlm Magazine NO. 605]

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