Episode #13: “Paternal House” and Mainstream Iranian Cinema

Welcome to episode #13 of the podcast. We are joined again by Corey Atad, who previously appeared on our fourth episode to discuss Still Life. Today’s topic of conversation is The Paternal House (Khane-ye Pedari), the long-awaited latest film from veteran director Kianoush Ayari. Although Ayari’s name and, by extension, his films, are not familiar to non-Iranian cinephiles, he’s become one of the most respected figures in the Iranian industry since the 1980s. Any new film by him would be greeted with enthusiasm in Iran, though The Paternal House‘s troubled history certainly added to the intrigue.

                           Kiyanoush Ayari (left) on the set of The Paternal House
                           Kiyanoush Ayari (left) on the set of The Paternal House

Ayari’s films have rarely seen the light of day since the turn of the century — 1998’s To Be Or Not to Be was his last publicly released feature. The Paternal House had been ready for several years before it was finally screened this year, only to be removed from the theatres within the first week of its release. Its confrontational violence, the radical tone of its feminism and Ayari’s admirable resolve to keep the film intact meant that this bitter, profound and absurdly comic melodrama is resigned to an unfortunate fate on the illegal market. Join us for a conversation about the film’s considerable merits, a short overview of Ayari’s career, the current condition of mainstream Iranian film and, finally, some speculation about Farhadi’s Spanish next film, produced by none other than Pedro Almodovar.

Schedule
Introduction 0:00-1:40
The cinema of Kianoush Ayari 1:40-7:50
The Paternal House: violence and comedy 7:50-18:10
Melodrama with an Iranian flavour 18:10-23:04
A sociopolitical reading of the film 23:05-31:45
Today’s mainstream Iranian cinema 31:45-37:07
Asghar Farhadi’s collaboration with Pedro Almodovar 37:07-43:58

You can download an .mp3 version of this episode here, or subscribe to our show on iTunes.

Works Cited
Kianoush Ayari’s The Paternal House (imdb)
Music: “Sonatine” by Maziar Heidari

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Episode #12: Secrets and Lies in Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly

Welcome to episode #12 of the Hello Cinema Podcast. We’re back after a one month hiatus to discuss Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly (Darbare-ye Elly, 2009), finally released in North America last month (through Cinema Guild) after a six year delay. he film, for which Farhadi won a best director prize in Berlin, is a particular favourite of Hello Cinema. Tina, as you already know, has written a book about Farhadi’s work and is understandably fond of this film. I admit, at the risk of spoiling an upcoming list, that I consider it the best Iranian film made in the 21st century.

Taraneh Alidoosti as Elly in About Elly Taraneh Alidoosti as Elly in About Elly

About Elly is a unique export for the Iranian film industry because it is a story about middle class characters. Farhadi’s film is at stark contrast to all the Iranian films that have been widely screened outside of the country and have become critically acclaimed over the years. We speak about this depiction of the lifestyle of young, middle-class Iranians, about the formal vigor of Farhadi’s direction and the structural complexity of his screenplay, and about the work of the performers in what is truly one of the strongest ensembles ever put on the silver screen. If you haven’t yet seen the film, we advise you to do so before listening to this episode.

Schedule
Opening 0:00-1:30
About Elly‘s release history 1:31-5:20
Ruptured structure: Farhadi’s storytelling genius 5:21-12:45
An impressive formal exercise 12:46-17:50
The ensemble 17:51-24:10
The Iranian middle class on screen 24:10-33:55
Closing 33:56-35:35

You can download an .mp3 version of this episode here, or subscribe to our show on iTunes.

Works Cited
About Elly (imdb, Cinema Guild)
Tina Hassannia’s Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema (
The Critical Press, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, TIFF Lightbox Shop)
Music: “Sonatine” by Maziar Heidari

Episode #11: Interview with Documentary Filmmaker Roya Akbari

Welcome to the eleventh episode of the Hello Cinema podcast. As regular listeners of the show are aware, TIFF Cinematheque is hosting “I For Iran: A History of Iranian Cinema by its Creators”. Fifteen feature films and three shorts from Iran will be screened as part of a series that was initiated by Thierry Jobin, the artistic director of Fribourg International Film Festival. On today’s show, we’re honoured to host documentary filmmaker Roya Akbari, whose film Only Image Remains (2014) is opening the retrospective.

Roya Akbari in Only Image Remains Roya Akbari in Only Image Remains

Akbari started her career in cinema with a short but memorable voice performance in Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten (Dah, 2002), alongside her sister, Mania. Her first work as a director was a short documentary called Dancing Mania, about a film her sister was directing about dance in Iran. Her latest, Only Image Remains, is the most recent entry in a TIFF Cinematheque retrospective that includes films as old as Haji Agha, The Movie Actor (1933). In this film, which Akbari directed on the occasion of Fribourg festival’s Iranian retrospective, she discusses this national cinema with filmmakers such as Bahram Beizaei, Amir Naderi and Rafi Pitts.

We asked her about her motivations for making this film, the history of Iranian cinema, the cultural significance of producing Iranian works in diaspora, the difficulties of making films as a woman, and TIFF Cinematheque’s retrospective series. Akbari will introduce her film, as well as The Night It Rained (An Shab Ke Barun Umad, Kamran Shirdel, 1967) and P Like Pelican (P Mesl-e Pelikaan, Parviz Kimiavi, 1972). For a complete schedule of events at the retrospective, click here.

You can download an .mp3 version of this episode here, or subscribe to our show on iTunes.

Works Cited
Music: “Sonatine” by Maziar Heidari

Episode #10: Iranian Cinephile Culture

Welcome to the 10th episode of the Hello Cinema Podcast. In today’s conversation, we mostly discuss Amir’s trip to Tehran and have a look at the film-going culture, the cinephile community, the state of old and modern cinemas in Tehran and the city’s Museum of Cinema. We also have a look at two films that were recently on screens in Tehran after makings the rounds in European and Asian festivals in 2014: Shahram Mokri’s Fish & Cat (Gorbeh va Maahi) and Nima Javidi’s Melbourne. Both films are significant artistic achievements, the former a unique, formally ambitious horror film shot in a single take, and the latter an intense family drama indebted to the recent works of Asghar Farhadi with two superb performances by the film’s leads, Peiman Maadi and Negar Javaherian.

Furthermore, we discuss the three Iranian films that will be playing at the Berlin Film Festival this February, as well as our upcoming events at TIFF, where the Toronto organization will screen a series of Iranian films. Tina will be introducing Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-up and Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation. Amir will introducing Dariush Mehrjui’s Hamoun. Details for this series can be found here.

Schedule
Introduction 0:00-3:02
Cinemas in Tehran 3:03-11:53
Cinephilia in Iran 11:54-18:18
Tehran’s Museum of Cinema 18:19-23:08
Shahram Mokri’s Fish & Cat 23:09-27:47
Nima Javidi’s Melbourne 27:48-30:35
Cinematheque Screenings in Tehran 30:36-32:14
Old Tehran and Pre-revolutionary Cinemas 32:15-32:25
Iranian Films at Berlinale 32:26-39:10
Closing 39:11-40:54

You can download an .mp3 version of this episode here, or subscribe to our show on iTunes.

Works Cited
Fish & Cat (Gorbeh va Maahi, Shahram Mokri, 2014)
Melbourne (Nima Javidi, 2014)
Red Carpet (Reza Attaran, 2014)
Music: “Sonatine” by Maziar Heidari

*Correction: Reza Attaran’s Red Carpet was not considered for Academy Award submission.

Episode #9: Tina Hassannia’s Asghar Farhadi, Life and Cinema

Tina here, and I feel really weird writing this entry since our latest podcast is on, well, ME! And my Critical Press book, Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema. Amir is on vacation so I had to helm the blog-writing this month, and it came down to either no podcast or shameless-promotion podcast. And obviously we are going for the latter.

This month we use the book to explore and shed some light on Asghar Farhadi’s filmography, which spans just over a decade and six feature-length films. We discuss what it’s like writing a book-length study on a single filmmaker, the exciting Cinema Guild announcement made a few weeks ago about their releasing About Elly next spring, the importance of writing a retrospective on a mid-career artist, and Farhadi’s other creative output in screenwriting, theatre, and television, which will hopefully one day also get written about. Finally, we go long on our personal favourite Farhadi films. Hope you enjoy our final podcast of the year. Happy New Year everyone, and join us in the new year for some great surprises!

Schedule
Intro 00:00 – 02:30 
How Tina started writing a book for The Critical Press 02:30 – 04:17 
From writing Ancient Persia Young-Adult fiction to… Asghar Farhadi 04:18 – 08:29 
Raising awareness of Farhadi’s earlier work 08:30 – 12:24 
Dancing in the Dust, the Iranian Breaking Bad 12:25 – 15:09 
Is it worthwhile to write a book on a mid-career artist? The answer is yes. 15:10 – 16:31 
How Farhadi has an answer for everything 16:32 – 19:42 
Examples of brilliance in A Separation 19:43 – 23:39 
Farhadi’s other work: TV, theatre, other screenwriting 23:40 – 25:24 
Tina’s auteurist approach in Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema 25:25 – 35:11 
Our Farhadi favourites: A Separation and About Elly 35:12 – 47:57 
Outro 47:58 – 49:20 

You can download an .mp3 version of this episode here, or subscribe to our show on iTunes.

Works cited
Tina’s book Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema (available from The Critical Press, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, TIFF Lightbox Shop)
Her publisher: The Critical Press
Tina’s video essay on morality in Farhadi’s work (Movie Mezzanine)
Book review and author profile (in Farsi: BBC Persian)
Dancing in the Dust (imdb)
About Elly (imdb)
A Separation (imdb)

Music: “Sonatine” by Maziar Heidari
Thumbnail image courtesy of Geoff Allen Stairs

Episode #8, Part 2: Rosewater and Not Without My Daughter with Diana Barboza

Welcome to the second part of Hello Cinema Podcast’s eighth episode. We continue our conversation with Diana Barboza about Jon Stewart’s Rosewater – you can listen to the first part here. We delve further into the film’s simplified politics and Stewart’s personal view of his film as expressed in interviews. We end our discussion with a look back at one of the earlier Hollywood films about Iran, Not Without My Daughter (Brian Gilbert, 1991).

Sally Field in Not Without My Daughter Sally Field in Not Without My Daughter

Gilbert’s film, in which Sally Field stars as Betty Mahmoody, an American woman married to an Iranian man (Alfred Molina) who practically holds her hostage in Tehran, was an opportunistic, propagandist film based on an eponymous book. At the time of its release, the Iranian press rightfully dubbed it an “Anti-Iranian” film, a sentiment that is difficult to argue with more than two decades later. We situate the film in the small but important canon of Hollywood films about Iran.

Schedule
Introduction 0:00-0:24
Family relationships in Rosewater 0:25-5:14
Evading sociopolitical complexity 5:15-15:22
Stewart’s personal view of politics in his film 15:23-19:55
Not Without My Father 19:56-32:04
Closing 32:05-34:07

You can download an .mp3 version of this episode here, or subscribe to our show on iTunes.

Works cited
Jon Stewart’s Rosewater (imdb)
Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy’s Then They Came For Me (link)
Andrew O’Hehir’s interview with Jon Stewart at Salon (link)
Music: “Sonatine” by Maziar Heidari

Episode #8, Part 1: Rosewater with Diana Barboza

Welcome to the eighth episode of the Hello Cinema Podcast. This month’s guest is Diana Barboza, a fellow Torontonian cinephile whose smart views on issues of race and representation in cinema make her the perfect guest for the topic at hand, Jon Stewart’s Rosewater. The popular comedian’s first directorial effort tells the story of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Candian journalist imprisoned in Iran after the 2009 presidential elections as adapted from his memoir, Then They Came For Me.

Stewart’s film is problematic on multiple levels, bearing both the marks of a nervous filmmaking debut in its formal approach and a lack of sociopolitical insight into modern day Iran. As a film disappointingly described as “mass market infotainment primarily aimed at North American viewers” by Bahari himself, Rosewater lacks the cultural sensitivity and misses the mark with its inaccurate representation of Iranians. On the other hand, these issues give us plenty to  analyze. Join us as we discuss the casting issues, the adaptation, the political misrepresentations and Stewart’s intentions in making the film. This conversation ran longer than our usual episodes, so we have spread the fun. Tune back in next week for part two of this episode.

Schedule
Introducing…Diana Barboza 0:00-3:11
Introducing…Rosewater 3:12-9:20
An unmemorable, hokey experience 9:21-16:34
Issues of racial representation 16:35-22:46
Rosewater‘s simplified politics 22:47-35:49
Aesthetics of representing Iran 35:50-40:01

You can download an .mp3 version of this episode here, or subscribe to our show on iTunes.

Works cited
Jon Stewart’s Rosewater (imdb)
Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy’s Then They Came For Me (link)
Andrew O’Hehir’s interview with Jon Stewart at Salon (link)
Music: “Sonatine” by Maziar Heidari

Episode #7: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Welcome to the seventh episode of the Hello Cinema Podcast. In this month’s edition, we discuss the soon to be released, black and white, vampire Western A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, who was nominated for a Gotham Award for Best Breakthrough Director last week for this film, Girl is an impressive debut feature with a blend of influences ranging from 50s and 60s westerns to the comic-book aesthetic of Marjane Satrapi.

Sheila Vand in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Sheila Vand in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Amirpour joins a growing group of women of Iranian descent who are currently making films in Diaspora, such as the aforementioned Satrapi, Shirin Neshat, Desiree Akhavan and Mitra Farahani. She has set her film in an imagined city in Iran, “Bad City,” in an imagined time, where the vengeful but curiously likeable vampire, played by Sheila Vand, haunts the streets at night looking ominous in her black chador, preying on corrupt victims and searching for personal gain and vigilante justice. Transcending this premise, Amipour offers an interesting take on Iranian culture by using the small population of this bleak, deserted city as a microcosm of the “Iranian” society. On the show, we analyze the aesthetic and thematic preoccupations of the film and the fascinating result of Amirpour’s many influences.

Schedule
Introducing… Ana Lily Amirpour 0:00-4:53
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: Synopsis 4:53-13:02
Aesthetics and politics 13:02-17:20
The residents of “Bad City” 17:20-25:45
House parties and horror films in Iranian cinema 25:45-33:56
Closing 33:56-34:33

You can download an .mp3 version of this episode here, or subscribe to our show on iTunes.

Works cited
Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) (imdb)
Music: “Sonatine” by Maziar Heidari

Episode #6: Iranian Films at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival

Welcome to the sixth episode of the Hello Cinema Podcast. In this month’s edition, Tina and Amir review all the films with an Iranian connection that played at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Perhaps more than ever before, Toronto’s lineup was generous to fans of Iranian cinema this September, not just showcasing two films produced in the country but also bringing films made in the Diaspora about Iran, by Iranian directors elsewhere in the world, and even one Hollywood film about Iran.

Parviz Parastuyi in Reza Mirkarimi's Today, Iran's submission for the 2014 Academy Awards
Parviz Parastuyi in Reza Mirkarimi’s Today, Iran’s submission for the 2014 Academy Awards

We focus mostly on two films: Iran’s submission for this year’s Academy Award for best foreign-language film, Reza Mirkarimi’s Today (Emrūz), and the winner of the Best Screenplay award at this year’s Venice Film Festival, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s Tales (Ghesse-ha). We also discuss Mardan, the first film by Bahman Ghobadi’s brother, Batin, which is filmed in Kurdish; 99 Homes, directed by Ramin Bahrani who co-wrote the film with legendary Iranian filmmaker Amir Naderi; and Red Rose, Sepideh Farsi’s confrontational look at the events of 2009’s Green Movement. We also briefly discuss Today’s Oscar chances, Jon Stewart’s Rosewater and our favourite films from TIFF 2014.

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Schedule
Introduction 0:00-1:35
Iran’s Oscar submission 1:35-5:00
Reza Mirkarimi 5:00-10:23
Today 10:24-25:02
Tales 25:03-36-41
Red Rose 36:42-45:48
Mardan 45:49-48:00
99 Homes 48:01-57:48
Final thoughts 57:49-59:53
TIFF Favourites 59:54-1:01:25
Closing 1:01:26-1:02-:02

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You can download an .mp3 version of this episode here, or subscribe to our show on iTunes.

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Works Cited
Reza Mirkarimi’s Today (Emrūz, 2014) (imdb)
Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s Tales (Ghesse-ha, 2014) (imdb)
Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes (2014) (imdb)
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Music: “Sonatine” by Maziar Heidari

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Episode #5: Closed Curtain and the Evolution of Jafar Panahi’s Career

Welcome to the fifth episode of the Hello Cinema podcast, where we are joined by special guest Nick Davis. Nick is an Associate Professor of English and Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northwestern University, has been writing as a film critic for over a decade and recently authored The Desiring Image: Gilles Deleuze and Contemporary Queer Cinema. The main topic of our conversation for this episode is Jafar Panahi’s latest film Closed Curtain (Pardeh, 2013, co-directed by Kambuzia Partovi), but Nick’s enthusiasm for Iranian cinema and his familiarity with Panahi’s career led our conversation in interesting directions.

Kambuzia Partovi in Jafar Panahi's Closed Curtain
Kambuzia Partovi in Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain

We discuss the trajectory of Panahi’s career from his early days as an assistant director to Abbas Kiarostami to his recent productions under house arrest. We also delve into the reception of Closed Curtain and consider the film as a companion piece to both This Is Not A Film and his breakthrough features. Contextualizing Panahi’s self-reflexivity is a central part of our discussion in this episode due to the prevalence of meta-cinema in Iranian film. And finally, on an unrelated note, we lightly touch on the Toronto International Film Festival, a mere week away, to announce the Iranian films playing there.

Schedule

Introduction 0:00-1:47
Iranian films at TIFF 2014 1:48-4:05
An introduction to Jafar Panahi’s cinema 4:06-16:11
Closed Curtain: An Enigma 16:12-29:36
Iranian Films Breaking the Fourth Wall 29:37-33:12
Separating Closed Curtain from Its Maker 33:13-37:31
Closed Curtain in Relation to Panahi’s Oeuvre 37:32-43:45
World’s Cutest Dog and Toughest Iguana 43:36-48:55
Panahi’s Definitive Film 48:56-1:04:14
Final Thoughts 1:04:15-1:07:30
Closing 1:07:31-1:09:27

You can download an .mp3 version of this episode here, or subscribe to our show on iTunes.

Works Cited
Films by Jafar Panahi
The White Balloon (imdb, amazon, youtube – no English subtitles)
The Mirror (imdb, amazon)
The Circle (imdb, amazon)
Crimson Gold (imdb, amazon)
Offside (imdb, amazon, instant watch)
This Is Not A Film (imdb, amazon)
Closed Curtain (imdb)
Tina Hassannia’s review of Closed Curtain for Slant (link)
Nick Davis’s The Desiring Image (amazon)
Music: “Sonatine” by Maziar Heidari