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Iran losing direction?

 

What with the increasingly tense protests against the disputed election of Mahmoud Ahmedenijad, not to mention the ongoing threat of their nuclear program, the state of filmmaking is not the first thing people think about when the subject of Iran is raised. Nonetheless, I think it's germane, and so does Vadim Rizov at GreenCine.com, who describes how the leading Iranian auteurs such as Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Abbas Kiarostami, Majid Majidi and Panahi have been stifled or sent into artistic exile by the current regime, which in the meantime has turned the film industry into a dumbed down spewer of reactionary palaver, a regime which, he writes, is " one of the most ridiculously efficient propaganda machines on the planet, one that's shattered a vibrant film culture in under ten years."

That may well be the case, but I found the selections in the annual "Boston Festival Of Films From Iran" showing at the Museum of Fine Arts last November pretty provocative. They seemed forthright on such issues as feminism, tolerance and individual freedom -- especially when compared to such Hollywood box office offerings as "The Hangover" and "Land of the Lost." Whether these films got much exposure in Iran I don't know (though it seems at least one, Dariush Mehrjui's "Santoori: The Music Man," was banned) and most of the high profile directors were not represented. An exception being Majidi with his "Song of the Sparrows,"  which has since been released here commercially and, though a little on the sentimental side, is certainly more insightful into human relations and the iniquities of society than, say "Away We Go."

And what of those other major directors Rizov mentioned? Well Kiarostami,  whom Rizov said was "off doing art installation-type dares to the audience," was interviewed recently by the Guardian. Asked whether he planned to vote in the (then) upcoming Iranian election he said, "I won't vote for a republic again. But if any candidate declared himself as a responsible power for life, I might well vote for them - I'd even go barefoot to vote. I can't vote for someone who, once they're elected, spends two years reinforcing his position, and the next two years preparing for the next vote. More than the Islamic republic, I want to question the republic itself. Nowadays you can win a four-year mandate with the promise of a kilo of oranges. People have to be educated to be politically mature and independent." No big booster of democracy he, nor did he sound particularly worried about his own circumstances whatever the outcome of the election.


Makhmalbaf, on the other hand, who as a zealous youth was arrested resisting the Shah back in 70s, is a little more of an activist. He is a supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition candidate who claims to have defeated Mahmoud Ahmedenijad, and together with Paris-based Iranian filmmaker Marjane Satrapi  ("Persepolis "), has gone public to denounce Ahmedinijad. "What happened is not an electoral fraud, but a coup d'etat," he said. Apparently he and Satrapi believe that there comes a time when making history is more important than making movies.

 
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