Art Media Magazine
The film program at the Museum of Fine Arts is currently in midst an Iranian Film Festival that provides the finest showcase yet offered in Boston for this important national cinema. Begun on November 10 and continuing into December, the Program offers 12 recent feature films from Iran along with selected shorts; it will also provide the site for the first bestowal of an annual award, the ILEX Foundation Award for Excellencein the Iranian Cinema.
For the first year, this award will be given to the Cinematic House of Makhmalbaf ….
The head of this house, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, had been one of the … most visible of contemporary Iranian film artists in the wider cinema world, … With films like “The Cyclist, “The Peddler, “Once Upon a Time,
Cinema “and most recently … “A Moment of Innocence, “Makhmalbaf had helped to make Iranian cinema one of the most important places where the relationship between film and reality is explored. His daughter Samira’s first film, “The Apple”, won an appreciative American audience last year, and her newest film, “The Blackboard”, will be shown at the Festival.
Makhmalbaf’s younger daughter, Hana, his son, Maysam, and his wife, marzieh meshkini – filmmakers all – will attend the festival with some of their recent work, including documentaries of family members pursuing their professional and personal lives. Makhmalbaf senior will have a short film, “Testing Democracy”, in the festival, accompanied by a short, ….
ArtsMEDIA talked recently with the head of the MFA Film Program about this festival and its particular importance. Asked why the Iranian cinema has become so important on the contemporary international film scene, Smith referred back to its history. “It hasn’t been overnight – Iran has a long history of producing great films, that predates the revolution. We have had a chance to show some of those great films, like Dariush Mehrjui’s The Cow’ (1968) in previous retrospectives.
“There are a few ingredients that helps to make film rise to great artistic heights. One is a community of film enthusiasts who treat film as the foremost art form. This happens in different places at different times, and we see it here by how people turn out for different films. In some cases you can tell that this is a cultural event of the highest importance, not just a diversionary entertainment. We certainly see this when the Iranian community turns out for films here.
“And then”, Smith continues, “when this is in place, there is a great freedom that is offered to artists. Like everywhere else, Iran has a cinema that is primarily commercial, but it also supports in an exceptional way what can be called an art cinema. This is true in several parts of the world, but over the past couple of decades, many art cinemas have lost their independence, or been bottom-lined out.
“So places like Tehran of Taiwan which produce a cinema this is clearly not motivated by commercial consideration are in the minority. But they try to produce outstanding pieces of art that can be appreciated in world festivals of cinema or in museum-like settings. Some of these filmscan then receive extensive sommercial runs in cinema-loving cities like Paris. …
musing on the relations between museum and festival presentation and commercial distribution, Smith argues that “distributors can sometimes be slow at picking up where things are at in the cinema world. So where we have known for years about the major Iranian directors like Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Dariush Mehrjui, and … it is only currently that distributors are beginning to look seriously at their works. So this year we may have as many as 8 or 10 Iranian films in the hands of distributors who will try to do something commercial with them. But just four or five years ago there would only be a couple released in any form”.
Asked about the significance of the award which will be presented for the first time during this festival, Smith enthused, “it’s really going to be a treasure this year to have members of the Makhmalbaf family here as part of the festival. I’m really thankful for how this has all come together. … which is really serious about supporting all forms of Iranian culture as well as cinema. It is starting an annual cash award which will be presented to some artist who represents the finest achievement in Iranian cinema.
“We will have three members of the Makhmalbaf family – his wife, Marziah Meshkini, had recently received a lot of attention for her film, “The Day I Became a Woman,” which just took the top honor at the Chicago Film Festival, and was honored at the Pusan Film Festival in Korea. It was a big deal at Toronto, and premiered at Venice. It’s a big prize that everyone has been wanting to snag, and our screening will be just the second one in the United States, after that in Chicago ….
“We will be screening this on December 1, and showing it with a short film by the younger daughter, Hanan, called “The Day My Aunt Was Ill.” The next day we will have a documentary by a Makhmalbaf son, Maysam, called “How Samira made ‘The Blackboard’,” which looks at the growth of Samira makhmalbaf as a filmmaker.
“Her first film was “The Apple,” a couple of years ago. Following Maysam’s documentary in a separate program, we will screen her second feature, “The Blackboard,” which is another very special screening of the festival this year. Since the film has not yet found an American distributor, they are trying to keep screenings of it to a minimum, but allowed us to show it because of this special tribute to the family.”
Iranian Film Finds A Boston Home
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