Close-up: Screenings, festival awards and imprisonments

Documentary filmmaker, Mahnaz Mohammadi, has started a five-year jail sentence.
Documentary filmmaker, Mahnaz Mohammadi, has started a five-year jail sentence.

This year’s edition of the Edinburgh Film Festival held a retrospective program on Iranian cinema which included screenings of several classic and new films and interviews with filmmakers and scholars. For the Persian readers among you, BBC Persian has written a cover story on the event. If you happen to be attending the festival, there is one more chance to catch up with the program tomorrow and watch Ebrahim Golestan’s rare film, The Crown Jewels of Iran (Ganjine-haye Gohar, 1965):

In Ebrahim Golestan’s beautiful and poetic The Crown Jewels of Iran, he put in a narration that directly criticised kings and their jewels as the empty objects of their pride. Later the Minister of Art and Culture censored the film. The film is remarkably condensed, very beautiful and powerful – the best example of Golestan’s mastery of form and rhythm in a cinema that is both political and poetic.

Reza Dormishian’s I’m Not Angry (Asabani Nistam, 2014), quietly but quickly picking up steam as one of the most acclaimed Iranian films of the year, has won several awards at the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival:

“I made this film with a love for Iran and the people of my country,” Dormishian stated during his speech at the awarding ceremony held last night. I’m Not Angry narrates the story of a university student, Navid, whose studies are disrupted due to his activities and beliefs.

Mahnaz Mohammadi, renowned Iranian documentary filmmaker, has been jailed for five years following allegations of espionage. Mohammadi has denied her alleged collaboration against the regime and any involvement with the BBC:

Mohammadi, director of the 2006 award-winning documentary Travelogue, was summoned earlier this month to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison to begin her five-year sentence, initially handed down in October 2012 and later upheld in the appeals court.

On a final note, if you happen to be in the London area on Wednesday July the 2nd, Asia House is hosting a program called “Real Fictions: Unlocking Iranian Cinema”. Rose Issa will be talking about several films, including works by directors such as Abbas Kiarostami, Asghar Farhadi, Jafar Panahi and Bahman Ghobadi. Details for the event can be found here.


Close-up: Mark Cousins & Mania Akbari made a film together, and more

Image from Mark Cousins' and Mania Akbari's new film Life May Be.
Image from Mark Cousins’ and Mania Akbari’s new film Life May Be.


In addition to the Iranian programme playing at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, Mania Akbari and Mark Cousins will welcome their new film, Life May Be, about letter-writing in the 21st century. Watch the trailer. Excerpt from a List Film interview:

How would you describe Life May Be?

Mark: The film is an old-fashioned letter piece – like Les Liaisons Dangereuses or Pamela by Samuel Richardson, radically updated to the digital age and with modern themes – Iran, exiles, nudity, etc.

Mania: It’s a ‘happening film’ resulting from an encounter between two individual approaches to form, story, rhythm, sound and movement. On these correspondences, our pen is form and movement, and as we advance through life and images, we reveal secrets and expose the private. In the process, this incredible revelation joins a bigger picture which can be called cinema.

The Open City Docs Fest London features several documentaries about contemporary Iran by female directors. The programme includes Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa’s Jerry & Me:

The first-person documentary Jerry & Me sees director Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa remember her childhood through the movies she went to see with her father, in particular those featuring the comedic genius of Jerry Lewis. The accompanying voiceover gives a potted history of Saeed-Vafa, including her time teaching cinema to the Iranian political filmmaker Jafar Panahi and a move to the United States. Directing what is sure to be one of the highlights of the festival, Saeed-Vafa will be attending the screening in London and delivering a post-screening talk.

Kino Lorber will distribute Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night in North America this October:

Shot in black and white, the feature debut of Ana Lily Amirpour, is set in an imaginary Iranian underworld with elements of neo-noir and spaghetti Western. It was  the opening-night film at the New Directors/New Films event in New York.

Argo actress Sheila Vand stars as a vampire along with Arash Marandi and Dominic Rains, Mozhan Marno, Rome Shadanloo, Marshall Manesh and Milad Eghbali.


Episode #3, Part 2: The Beginnings of Kiarostami’s Cinema of Questions (with Godfrey Cheshire)

In the first part of our conversation with esteemed critic and former head of the New York Film Critics’ Circle, Godfrey Cheshire, we discussed a number of Abbas Kiarostami’s early films that follow a similar narrative pattern with a young, lone hero at the centre. Most of Kiarostami’s output during the first two decades of his career was made for Kanun, focused on children and shared many stylistic similarities, but not all his films followed this structure. Kiarostami made several documentaries and even tackled political issues like the Islamic revolution and its social and religious ramifications. In the second part of this episode, we review the idiosyncratic movies of his early filmography.

Abbas Kiarostami with the cast and crew of The Report (including Shohreh Aghdashloo, standing centre)
Abbas Kiarostami with the cast and crew of The Report (including Shohreh Aghdashloo, standing centre)

The films discussed in this episode include The Report (Gozaresh, 1977), First Case, Second Case (Ghazieh-e Shekl-e Aval, Ghazieh-e Shekl-e Dovom, 1979), Orderly or Disorderly (Be Tartib Ya Bedun-e Tartib, 1981), Fellow Citizen (Hamshahri, 1983), First Graders (Kelas Avvaliha, 1984) and Homework (Mashgh-e Shab, 1989). Since the second part of the episode is closely tied to the first, we encourage you to listen to that conversation before joining us here.

Opening 0:00-0:20
Introduction 0:20-1:33
The Report 1:34-16:16
First Case, Second Case 16:17-22:10
Orderly or Disorderly 22:11-24:51
Expanding the boundaries of documentary filmmaking 24:52-29:00
Kiarostami’s cinema of questions 29:01-34:33
First Graders and Homework as companion pieces 34:34-45:12
Closing 45:13-47:19

Download an .mp3 version of this episode here or subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.

Works Cited
The Hello Cinema Podcast, Episode 3, Part 1. (link)
Alberto Elena’s The Cinema of Abbas Kiarostami (amazon)
Music: “Sonatine” by Maziar Heidari
Films by Abbas Kiarostami
The Report (imdb, included in Criterion edition of Certified Copy)
First Case, Second Case (imdb, youtube – no English subtitles)
Orderly or Disorderly (imdb, youtube – no English subtitles)
The Chorus (imdb, youtube – Part 1, Part 2)
Fellow Citizen (imdb)
First Graders (imdb)
Homework (imdb, youtube)