Iranian Films at the 2014 Venice Film Festival

The number of Iranian films at major European film festivals has been on steady decline since the heyday of the 1990s and early 2000s, but this year has proven to be a delightfully surprising change of pace. After Cannes and Sundance, where several Iranian films have gained traction on the critical radar, this year’s edition of the Venice Film Festival, which runs between August 27th to September 6th, boasts a high number of Iranian participants as well.

Rakhshan Bani-Etemad (standing, centre) with the cast of Tales
Rakhshan Bani-Etemad (standing, centre) with the cast of Tales

In the main competition section, veteran director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad will screen her latest film, Tales (Ghesse-ha, 2014). Comprised of several different stories that interconnect, Bani-Etemad revisits characters from her previous films to follow up on their fates after the end of their respective films. Surprisingly, the Venice berth will not be the film’s world premiere, as Iran’s Fajr Film Festival has already screened it to the public, where it received an audience award. Bani-Etemad has previously won awards at European festivals like Karlovy Vary and Locarno. Her most famous films include The Blue-Veiled (Rusari Abi, 1995) and Under the Skin of the City (Zir-e Poost-e Shahr, 2001). Her latest has been dubbed “the most special Iranian film of all time” by esteemed critic, Ahmad Talebinejad.

Competing with Bani-Etemad for the Golden Lion is Ramin Bahrani, the American director of Iranian origin whose films include Man Push Cart (2005) and Goodbye Solo (2008). His first foray into working with professional actors, At Any Price (2013), wasn’t as warmly received as his earlier work, but he’s stayed on the same path anyway. In 99 Homes, starring Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon and Laura Dern, Bahrani tells the story of familial and financial struggle for a father who’s family is being evicted.

The Horizons section of the festival will host the latest from the renowned filmmaker behind Hello Cinema (Salaam Cinema, 1995) and A Moment of Innocence (Nun va Goldun, 1996), Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The President, his first English language feature film, is set in a fictitious Caucasian country, were a deposed ruler comes face to face with the people of his country when he and his grandson are forced to disguise themselves as street musicians. This is Makhmalbaf’s first fiction film in five years and as usual, his family members all occupy roles behind the camera.

Finally, director Nima Javidi’s debut feature, Melbourne, will be playing in the Critics’ Week section. The film tells the story of a young couple whose plans to immigrate from Iran to Melbourne, Australia are thwarted when a family tragedy hits them hours before their flight. Melbourne stars Peiman Moaadi and Negar Javaherian and has already garnered much critical acclaim in Iran.

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