by Mohammad Mohammadian
During the past decade, the Iranian film market has been growing and expanding year by year. And that is what film purchasers and managers of international festivals want. This gives them an opportunity to see tens of Iranian films and to hold talks with Iranian film directors, producers and distributors. Let us bear in mind that this year’s edition of the Iranian film market was held between Rotterdam and Berlin film festivals. It is now so important that many of the festival’s guests feel obliged to be present in the market and International Fajr Film Festival. It was interesting that after the end of the market every one of them was on a hurry to catch their flights! Since four years ago, when the film market became international, many companies have found it a suitable place to offer and introduce their films. Every year, more of these companies join the film market in Tehran. Amir Esfandiari, director of the film market says: “We have had a 30 percent growth in the number of purchasers and vendors during the current year and that is good. We have tried to expand the market for the Iranian films by inviting international customers. Now the film market is international and we are interested in becoming the region’s most popular film market. We have been successful in our recent editions of the market and one could see this in the growth the market has had.”
This year, a large number of the Iranian films were screened for the guests of the market at two theaters simultaneously throughout the day until late at night. Like previous years, there were different views about the films. One of the films that was released this year by CMI and was very welcome was The Night Bus by Kioumars Pourahmad. The story of this film goes on during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Two young Iranian combatants and a bus driver are to take a large group of Iraqi POWs behind the lines after a night journey by bus. But the journey happens to be an eventful one. Although most events take place at night and inside the bus, the “bus” takes the viewers with it successfully to the end of the journey. Pourahmad is a veteran filmmaker who always creates impressive moments in his films. Those who watched the film liked the performances by the young Mehrdad Sedighian and highly experienced Khosrow Shakibai and Mohammad Reza Foroutan. Iranian film critics attached high critical value to this film.
The Dulcimer Player is the latest film by Dariush Mehrjui who started his career with the highly acclaimed Cow in 1969 as one of the founders of the new Iranian cinema. The film, which was screened on the last day of presence of the festival’s guests, was very successful. The story of this film is about a master dulcimer player and a popular singer who becomes a drug addict at the pinnacle of his fame. The film presents good performances by Bahram Radan and Golshifteh Farahani. Its producers are Faramarz Farazmand and Dariush Mehrjui.
Katayoun Shahabi, director of Rasaneh Shahrzad (Shahrzad Media) Company is an active private sector manager in the area of film distribution. She is distributor of A Few Days Later, the second film made by the renowned Iranian young director and experienced actress Niki Karimi. Her first film, One Night, was welcomed in many international film festivals last year. Later, Karimi was a member of the jury at many international film festivals. Like her first film, in A Few Days Later, Karimi deals with problems facing women. The story of the film is about a woman named Shahrzad who is going to experience choosing by making an important decision. Producer of this film is Mohammad Reza Takhtkeshian.
In continuation of their new policies to support the private sector distributors, the International Affairs Department of Farabi Cinema Foundation had offered only a few films in the market. One of the best films they offered was Mainline by Rakhshan Bani-Etemad. The film tells the story of a heroin addict girl whose fiancé is studying in Canada and does not know about her drug abuse. The girl decides to give up drugs one month before her fiancé is going to return to Iran to marry her. The film was welcomed at the film market and was also acclaimed by film critics and viewers at the festival. Bani-Etemad, who has co-directed this film with Mohsen Abdolvahab, says: “The Mainline has not been made to tell a story. Its most important goal is to draw attention to prevention without trying to discuss the underlying causes of addiction.” Baran Kowsari, the daughter of Bani-Etemad and the film’s producer, Jahangir Kowsari, won the festival’s best actress award for her performance in this film.
Another film released by Farabi Cinema Foundation at the film market was The Iranian Carpet. A group of the best Iranian film directors have made short episodes about the Persian carpet. The directors included Abbas Kiarostami, Reza Mirkarimi, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Noureddin Zarrinkelk, Mojtaba Rae’i, Kamal Tabrizi, Dariush Mehrjui, Mohammad-Reza Honarmand, Bahman Farmanara, Behrouz Afkhami, Bahram Baizai, Seifollah Dad, Khosrow Sinai, Jafar Panahi and Majid Majidi.
Some foreign companies, which had their own stands at this year’s film market in Tehran, included: Hilal TV, Adim Produksiyon (Turkey), Russian Cinema Council (Russia), Telewizja Polska S.A. (Poland), Roaah for Culture & Arts (Lebanon), Daro Films (Monaco), Neguin Company SDN. BND. (Malaysia), Ar-Riham Production (Lebanon), Mediatrade (Italy), Multivision Plus (Indonesia), Celluloid Dreams (France), Delphis Films (Canada), Kabul Film (Afghanistan), Mi Film (Canada), Cable Arab Network (France), DW, Urban film, Katarina Peters Film Production (Germany), Haos Film (Greece), Alresalah Satellite Channel (Kuwait).
Compared to previous editions of the film market, there were more Iranian companies present. They included: The 8th Art, The Association of Documentary Film Producers, Arya Sanat Tavakkol, Martyr Aviny Arts and Cultural Institute, Bamdad International Medium, the 21st Century Institute, Cinema 7, Cinemaema website, Cima Media International (CMI), International Affairs Department of Farabi Cinema Foundation, Farhat Film, Farabi Press, Film International magazine, Filmiran, Iranians Arts and Culture Foundation, Young Cinema Association, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, Life International Media, Mahed Film, Misagh Cultural Center, Omid Film, Pars Video, Donyay-e Tasvir (Picture World) magazine, Press TV, Fard Media, Saba Center, Silver Screen, Soroush, Sureh Cinema Development Institute, and Tasvir Aftab-e Shargh.
Documentary and Experimental Film Center, which is managed by Mohammad Afarideh, was among active Iranian institutes of the film market. It had offered a number of its products at a stand supervised by its international trade director Shirin Naderi. One of the films offered by this center was Adam directed by Abdolreza Kahani. It is the story of a village where no one has died for several years. Death arrives in the village in the disguise of a beautiful woman and takes one life. It is an absorbing story about how close death is to people. Mahtab Karamati has a successful performance as death in this film. She was appointed as UNICEF’s “goodwill ambassador” last year. Another film offered to the film market by the center was My Sin, the first film by Mehrshad Karkhani who has started his career as still photographer. He follows in footsteps of the renowned Iranian filmmaker and his teacher, Amir Naderi, by making a social film. It is the story of a young man who falls in love with the daughter of a man he has killed. Karkhani says: “Sometimes you have to pay for your deeds directly and suddenly. Then you have to admit to what you have done or you may simply get away with it as a sinner.”
Tehran Has No More Pomegranates directed by Massoud Bakhshi was another film produced by Documentary and Experimental Film Center. Bakhshi, who is also in charge of the center’s International Affairs Department, has directed many short films. In this documentary film he tells the social history of the Iranian capital, Tehran. The film was acclaimed by the Iranian film critics.
Mohammad Atebbai is another seasoned private sector distributor, who took part at the market with the Iranian Independents offering Three Women (Manijeh Hekmat), Those Three (Naghi Ne’mati) and Rami (Babak Shirinsefat). Three Women is Manijeh Hekmat’s second film after the highly acclaimed The Women’s Prison. It tells the story of three women belonging to three different generations: grandmother, mother, and daughter. Those Three, which was acclaimed in the festival is about three soldiers stranded in snowstorm. Atebbai is very well-known in the film market and is regularly visited by many of the festival’s guests.
Vahid Moussaeian was present in the festival with two films. The Earring is a feature film based on a novel by Houshang Moradi Kermani, the renowned author of children’s books and The Lost Land is a documentary. The Earring is about a little girl called Mahin, who causes trouble for herself and her family by buying a very expensive birthday present for her friend. This is the fifth feature film made by Moussaeian and casts famous actors. Producer of the film is Rouhollah Baradari. The Lost Land is story of a search for a number of Azerbaijan Democratic Party members who have been exiled to Siberia some sixty years ago. The film is the result of a difficult research mission in five countries and features old documentary stills to link the interviews.
The Fired Ones (The Expelled) directed by Massoud Dehnamaki was very popular at this year’s festival and became the viewers’ choice at the end. The film looks at the Iran-Iraq war with a satirical view. Producer of the film is Habibollah Kasehsaz who has produced it in partnership with Documentary and Experimental Film Center.
A large number of managers and officials of international film festivals attended this year’s film market, including Karel Och (Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Czech Republic), Alain Jalladeau & Philippe Jalladeau (Festival des 3 Continents, France), Patrice Carre (Semaine International de la Critique, Cannes, France), Prune Engler (La Rochelle International Film Festival, France), Kathrin Kohlstedde & Sophie Sola-Ferrer (Filmfest Hamburg, Germany). Dimitris Kekrinos (Thessaloniki Film Festival, Greece), Italo Spinelli (Roma Cinema Festival, Italy), Giuseppe Gariazzo (Torino Film Festival, Italy), Babak Karimi (Venice Film Festival, Italy), Shozo Ichiyama (Tokyo Filmex, Japan), Mina Oak (Pusan Film Festival, Korea), Anita Piotrowska (Krakow Film Festival, Poland), Robert Richter (San Sebastian Film Festival, Spain) Carlo Chartrian (Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland), Brian Bennett (Bangkok Film Festival, Thailand), Sheila Whitaker (Dubai Film Festival, UAE), Antonia Carver (Edinburgh Film Festival, Scotland), Rose Issa (Berlin Film Festival, Germany), Barbara Scharres (Gene Siskel Film Center, USA).
Other Iranian films that were screened and welcomed at the film market this year were Locksmith by Gholamreza Ramezani, The Last Queen of the Earth by Mohammad Reza Arab, Barefoot in Paradise (Bahram Tavakkoli), The Aster of Silent Town (Amir-Shahab Razaviyan) and The Cold Earth (Reza Sobhani). The Last Queen of the Earth, which is its director’s first feature film, is about a young Afghan living in Iran who sets out for a long journey back home concurrent with US attack on Afghanistan. This film is produced by Sureh Cinema Development Organization.
According to those who visit the Iranian film market every year, it is gaining more and more significance thanks to the importance of the Iranian cinema in the world and the region. That is why many would not miss February in Tehran.