To all those IFFK delegates who are wondering about what is happening to cinema in Iran (we have just three films this year) jury member Anne Demy Geroe says that Iranian film-makers are going through a very difficult time.
There has always been obstacles for film-makers in Iran, but they always knew how to get around it, how to say what they wanted to say. It is like water finding a way to flow around a rock, said Anne Demy Geroe, also a researcher of Asian Cinema, especially Iranian films.
She says that most of the film-makers were very clever, pointing out the example of Asghar Farhadi’s film ‘Separation’, which did make certain very critical statements about the state of affairs within the country, leaving the audience to judge. “You could read between the lines anyway,” said Anne whose doctoral thesis is about how the external circumstances affect the text of a film, especially Iranian films.
“What was wonderful about Farhadi’s films was that they were hugely popular within the country. Before ‘Separation’, there was this film ‘About Elly’ that was number 2 in the box office for months, but also won the Silver Bear for the best director at the Berlin Festival. Nowadays many youngsters think of this as a model film,” she says.
The problems started with the Government taking an antagonistic stand against the film-makers; and the ban imposed on Jafer Panahi’s ‘Circle’.
“The nineties were the Golden Era for Iranian films. But, by the late nineties, things were different with the change in government,” says Anne, who was the artistic director of the Brisbane Film festival for nearly a decade and the director of Iranian film festival in Australia.
While the relationship between the regime and the film-makers took a new low at the start of the millennium, most renowned film-makers such as the Makmalbafs started moving out of Iran. Even Abbas Kiarostami, who always said that “a tree can’t be transplanted” is in Iran only for very short spans of time, she says.
The situation went from bad to worse with the arrest, release and rearrest of Jafer Panahi, a film-maker who is known to festival buffs as a member of the IFFK jury many years ago.
“A major arm of their cinematic foundation was forced to close; the House of Cinema, started twenty years ago, was ordered to be closed down and many film-makers believe that they are now trying to smoke Jafer Panahi out of Iran.”
But Jafer Panahi is always a man that she would admire, says Anne. For “he never compromised and always did what he thought was right”.
“The film personalities and even the distributors are in jitters in Iran and when I try to source films for my festival in Australia, they ask about what other pictures are being screened. So it is a sad state of affairs,” she says.
Elections are fast approaching in Iran and does she think things will change with a change in government, we ask. “I do not think there will be a peaceful change of Government,” Anne says, unconsciously caressing a jasmine strand in her hair.
However, every pressure situation brings out the best of creativity among the film-makers, every low will be followed by a peak, she firmly believes. “A set of young film-makers are coming up, with varied styles. Take the case of the film ‘The Last Step’. There is nothing characteristically Iranian about the film, maybe except for some of the characters wearing head-scarves and speaking the Parsi language. New styles are being tried out.”
Let us all hope the Iranian spring would happen again!.