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Norway: Exclusive meeting with Iranian film and Iranian filmmakers

Posted by African Press International on April 14, 2013

This year Kosmorama Trondheim International Film Festival is collaborating with the Department of Art and Media Studies at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) on a large Iran Symposium. A number of prominent filmmakers and leading international experts on Iranian film will be attending to discuss Iranian film.

The focus will be on the artistic business in a country with severe limitations when it comes to freedom of speech, but which also has been one of the most interesting film nations over the past twenty years.

The event aims to introduce Iranian film for the Norwegian audience, to discuss the terms for filmmakers in Iran today, especially after the 2009 election, freedom of speech and human rights, social and aesthetic aspects of the recent years Iranian film (e.g. women’s rights), and the terms for Iranian filmmakers working in exile.

The symposium will be a combination of short presentations with discussion and panel discussion on the topics outlined above. The cooperation between Kosmorama and NTNU enables the symposium to reach out to a film audience, not to mention an extensive portion actors in the Norwegian film industry. This will be an opportunity to learn about Iranian film, and to participate in discussions and contacts with Iranian film workers.

The responsible for the event is Ali Shirzadi and Eirik Frisvold Hanssen (NTNU) in collaboration with Kosmorama International Film Festival.

Guest of Honor: Mohsen Makhmalbaf

The Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf is this year guest of honor. The festival’s general program is strongly influenced by Iranian film and films about Iran. Iran is a cultural nation and has been a major supplier of great new talents and movies since before the revolution, but most impressive is the fact that Iranian filmmakers have found a way to make strong socially critic films within the state-controlled Muslim clergy who have ruled Iran since the revolution of 1979. Mohsen Makhmalbaf has since his debut in the early 80’s been a pioneer and inspiration for the later wave of filmmakers that came from Iran in the 90’s and the 2000’s. His films have explored the tension in the relationship between the individual and a larger social and political context. In that sense, his films have often been seen as a comment on the development of the Iranian government and its people.

During the festival, Mohsen Makhmalbaf latest film THE GARDENER (2012) will be shown together with our retrospective series consisting of THE SILENCE (1998), Gabbeh (1996), A MOMENT OF INNOCENCE (1996) and SALAAM CINEMA (1995).

Those attending the symposium are:

MOHSEN MAKHMALBAF, film director and producer

BAHMAN GHOBADI, film director and producer

HAMID DABASHI, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature (Columbia University)  

HAMID NAFICY, Professor of Communication (Northwestern University)

SUSAN TASLIMI, actress and film director

MAYSAM MAKHMALBAF, film producer

Mohsen Makhmalbafs films

THE GARDENER: Mohsen Makhmalbaf announces in voice-over that he does not profess Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Bahai nor any other religion. Makhmalbaf and his son Maysam closely explore Bahai together. Bahai originated in Persia 170 years ago, and has more than six million members. In today’s Iran they are still exposed to systematic persecution. Makhmalbaf senior’s camera is on the hunt for the religion’s positive aspects, while Maysam, with his camera, is in the search for the negative aspects. Sometimes the two of them are observed by a third camera when they discuss their findings. Through their discussions about Bahai’s pros and cons, they actually discuss the religion’s general role in politics, war and peace. The gardens the film is set in deserve to be mentioned. The Bahai religion‘s headquarters in Israel, close to Haifa and Akka, have beautiful gardens full of colour and lines. These film sets are downright fantastic.

SALAAM CINEMA In connection with the 100th Anniversary of the film medium in 1995, Makhmalbaf posts an ad for an open screen test. More than five thousand hopeful candidates show up. They deliver personal testimonies where they share their reasons for participating and talk about what movies mean to them in their day-to-day life. But how far will they really go to get a chance to be in a movie themselves? The filmed auditions, which in many ways resemble TV-shows like American Idol, several years before the concept was invented, soon become a game of power where the director constructs an authoritative and manipulative version of himself. SALAAM CINEMA pays tribute to the film medium, but it also asks some critical questions. Interestingly, two of the candidates for the screen test show up in leading roles in Makhmalbaf’s next films: GABBEH and A MOMENT OF INNOCENCE.

A MOMENT OF INNOCENCE During a demonstration against the Shah in the middle of the Seventies the 17-year-old radical Mohsen Makhmalbaf stabs a police officer and is condemned to five years in prison. Twenty years later the same police officer visits Makhmalbaf, who is now one of Iran’s best established filmmakers. He wants to know if he has a film role for him. As in Abbas Kiarostami’s CLOSE-UP from 1990, which is also based on a true story, Makhmalbaf plays himself. The police officer and Makhmalbaf decide to make a film where they recreate the incident that happened twenty years earlier. This entertaining meta play opens up for many questions. How can a film recreate a memory? They do auditions, they start filming and it is soon clear that the two men’s experiences of the incident are very different. How has the last two decades changed their own perceptions of what happened and their own parts in the matter?

GABBEH Gabbeh is the name of a traditional, hand-woven Persian rug. The film uses this as the starting point to tell a story that alternates between different threads: time schedule, memories, fantasy and reality. It is a film where colours not only are a part of the imagery’s sensual surface, but also structure the story and create meanings. The film is set in South-Eastern Iran, and Makhmalbaf really went there to make a documentary about a group of nomad’s way of life. But the project soon developed into a playful, fictional love story that also has a subtle gender theme. A young woman wishes to marry the man she loves, and he follows her and her people from a distance through the magnificent scenery that shifts character with every season. GABBEH is perhaps Makhmalbaf’s most beautiful film; alive and fascinating depictions of love and dying traditions. 

THE SILENCE Like GABBEH in many ways is a film about colour, THE SILENCE is a film about sound. It’s about understanding and orienting yourself in the world through listening, and even creating, an alternative reality. The film, which was shot in a small village in Tajikistan (and banned in Iran), follows Khorsid, a ten-year-old blind boy who tunes new musical instruments in order to support himself and his mother. Khorsid is obsessed with the first four tunes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. He hears new sounds, music or everyday sounds, on his way home from work. This awakens his interest and leads him to new places and situations. This is a film that both sharpens and pleases your senses; the rich landscape of sound is complemented by strikingly beautiful images. THE SILENCE is a film about living in the present – unlike how religion emphasizes existence after death.

Kosmorama also shows the Iranian films THIS IS NOT A FILM and CLOSED CURTAIN, both directed by the filmmaker Jafar Panahi. These are his two latest films, and both are mad in secret while the director was detained and placed under house arrest with 20 years of professional ban. THIS IS NOT A FILM was smuggled out of Iran in 2011 and joined the Cannes program. The Iranian-Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadis film RHINO SEASONS is this year’s closing film.

The Iran Symposium is funded by Fritt Ord, Oslo and NTNU.

Kosmorama Trondheim International Film Festival is held 15th – 21st April 2013


Introduction from the Press Manager: Anne-Lise Aakervik

 Kosmorama is a festival that shows non-commercial films from all over the world. This is the ninth time we celebrate Kosmorama with both international og local guests. The focus of the festival this year is Iran. We also want to focus on new and aspiring young film makers. Our main contest New Directors Awards is therefore open for film makers who have not made more than three films, and is in the process of making themselves a name in the world of films. Norwegian women got their right to vote 100 years ago this years, and we celebrate that too. It is shown in our selection of films. One of the curator series is devoted to strong female stories. It is called: The right to choose. We have our own Pitching competition – where 10 people are selected to pitch their idea live in front of the jury. This is great fun and very exciting. As the only film Festival in Norway we collaborate with 8 1/2 Foundation, founded by Scottish actress Tilda Swinton. This is a series of children that are 8 years old. This is a nice time to introduce them for films. We also have our own award – Kanonpris (Canon award) where the Norwegian film business picks their favorites.





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