DAILY NEWS: Iranian Cinema in the Spotlight; Hamptons 2001 Lineup
by Brian Brooks and Maud Kersnowski/indieWIRE
>> Iranian Cinema: At a Crossroads After September 11th?
(indieWIRE/10.04.01) -- In the post-September 11th world, while the U.S.,
British and Iranian governments play diplomatic courtship games, Iranian
filmmakers and their foreign audiences are left wondering how the political
seesawing will effect Iran's film exports. Over the last decade, Iranian
cinema has risen from an exotic curiosity to a body of work respected
throughout the film world, taking top prizes at Cannes, Toronto and many
other festivals. If a broad-based, region-wide campaign against terrorists
in general exploded, "Films would stop coming out of Iran pretty quickly,"
commented film critic Godfrey Cheshire, who is currently writing a book
about Iranian cinema. But if the Bush Administration engaged Iran in a
collaborative mission, "it would stimulate both access to the films and fuel
a surge in interest in them," he said.
The recent concentration of media attention on the Mid-East is widening the
market for some Iranian films, particularly ones focusing on Afghan
characters. Abolfazl Jalili's "Delbaran" is receiving a swell of attention
from distributors. "We've started getting calls asking about it. They feel
there's a lot of interest building around Middle-Eastern and Afghan
subjects," offered Micah Green of Cinetic, which represents the film.
"There's been so much information about what the conditions are like there
that people want films that empathize." But the buzz around "Color of
Heaven" director Majid Majidi's award-winning "Baran" hasn't fluctuated at all. "It's been consistently well received. September 11 didn't really
effect that," according to Miramax PR rep Hiromi Kawanishi.
Immediately following the attacks, Iranian films in the U.S. do not appear
to have experienced an increase in public interest nor adverse effects from
backlash against middle-eastern culture, as some feared. Cinetic did put a
hold on all screenings of "Delbaran" until they could assess the climate,
Green said. The New York Film Society of Lincoln Center opened "Iranian
Cinema: New Directors, New Directions", a two-week program, on the eve of
the attacks. After closing for two days in response to the World Trade
Center tragedy, screenings resumed on September 13. "By closing weekend we
were up to our expected levels. It just took about seven or eight days for
people to get over the shock and begin to try to live normally again,"
according to Film Society Director Richard Peña.
The Iranian film community was shocked and pained by the terror attacks in
the U.S. A number of filmmakers expressed their sorrow during the annual
Feast of Iranian Cinema, Iran's equivalent to the American Oscars, held on
September 12. The awards ceremony opened with "a song of mourning." "No one
officially announced that the playing of 'The Fateful Day' was in response
to the explosions in the U.S., but all could imagine so," Mohammad Atebbai
Director of the film organization, Iranian Independents told indieWIRE.
According to Atebbai, the Khaneh Cinema, or House of Film, which acts as the
center for the Iranian film guilds, released an official statement
denouncing the recent events in New York and Washington. "Khaneh Cinema, [in
addition to] condemning all terrorist attacks in the world that endanger the
lives of innocent people in political conflicts, condemns the recent
explosions in U.S. which brought to death innocent American citizens,
European and Asian people in New York as well as the travelers on the
highjacked airplanes. We wish this present tense world, in respect to human
rights, would follow a peaceful and secure way."
The Iranian government also quickly extended condolences to the U.S. and
spoke out against the attacks, but the Middle Eastern country is also one of
the loudest voices against a solely American led military response. Tehran
consistently argues for a broad based multi-national anti-terrorist effort.
"No single nation can take up this fight," Iran's Foreign Minister
Mohammad-Javad Zarif said recently in The New York Times. "This is a global fight. And a cold warrior mentality against the global menace of terrorism
is not going to produce the results necessary to eradicate terrorism."
Filmmaker Majid Majidi is expected to attend the October 9 public screening
of "Baran" at the New York Film Festival. He will enter the U.S. through
Montreal. Even before September 11th there were concerns about whether or
not Majidi would be allowed in the country. The United States and Republic
of Iran have had no formal diplomatic relationship since 1979 when
Washington broke all ties after the revolutionaries seized the U.S. Embassy
and held the staff hostage. "It's always complicated to get Iranians into
the United States," Peña commented. "Right after the events of Sept 11th
Majidi felt like maybe this isn't such a good idea, maybe he shouldn't come.
I strongly encouraged him to come."
Regardless of President Bush's announcements that you are either for us or
against us, many of the most strategically placed countries do not fall
comfortably in the category of either pro or anti-terrorist. If the US wages
war against all states "harboring terrorists" Iran will almost definitely be
a target. It tops the State Department's lists of country's supporting
terrorist organizations, mainly due to their involvement with anti-Israeli
groups, like the Lebanese Hezbollah. For some in the Mid-East these are not
considered terrorists but freedom fighters battling against an occupying
army. But Iran also opposes the Afghan Taliban with whom they share a
560-mile border. Iran has long funded the Northern Alliance, the opposition
group in the Afghanistan, which Washington pledged support recently.
During the last ten years, films have been one of the major forms of
communication between the States and Iran. "These films can further
enlighten viewers as to what the culture of Iran is really like by [showing]
how sympathetic and humanistic their films are and how different they are
from the way Iran has been portrayed in the American media for the last 20
years," Cheshire said.
Inside Iran, Atebbai believes war in Afghanistan will have little effect on
the business of making films in Iran, but may shift their content. "A war
will make Iranian filmmakers more sensitive to the victims of such wars. I
am sure we'll soon see films dealing with ordinary people as the main
victims of such attacks or wars. I know that one of the most acclaimed
filmmakers, Ebrahim Hatamikia ("La Cinta Roja"), is going to make a movie
on plane hijacking!" [Maud Kersnowski]
>> Hamptons Unveils 9th Annual Fest Plans
>> Hamptons Unveils 9th Annual Fest Plans
(indieWIRE/10.04.01) -- The Hamptons International Film Festival has
unveiled its extensive program of features, docs, panels, special events and
programs highlighting women in film, youth media and more taking place in
the well-heeled communities of East Hampton, Sag Harbor and Westhampton on
Long Island, NY (October 17 - 21).
Continuing its reign as one of the richest award presenters in indie
Filmdom, this year's 9th annual event will award one of five eligible
features the Golden Starfish which includes over $180,000 in goods and
services for the filmmaker's next project. Other festival prizes include
$10,000 in cash and goods to The Golden Starfish Documentary and $5,000 for
the Short Film Prize. Additionally, Perrier has teamed with HIFF as one of
five festivals in the country participating in the Bubbling Under Award
which recognizes a first time fiction feature film director. Chosen from a
selection of Golden Starfish Fiction films, the HIFF filmmaker will later
compete with winners from the other four festivals for a $50,000 cash grant
to be used for their next feature.
This year's roster features 11 World Premieres, 3 U.S. premieres, 14 East
Coast premieres and 9 New York premieres including the opening night film,
"Edges of the Lord" by writer/director Yurek Bogayevicz. Set in an idyllic
Polish village, the Miramax release is described in a press release as "a
multi-layered coming-of-age story" and stars Haley Joel Osment, who will
introduce the film. This year's five Spotlight Films include the New York
premiere of "No Man's Land," by Bosnian director Danis Tanovic, which won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes 2001. Closing the Festival is Michael
Apted's "Enigma" described by the Festival as "a film that explores science
and technology themes with originality and insight, challenging existing
stereotypes of scientists and engineers."
For the second year, Hamptons will showcase a series of work in its "Films
of Conflict and Resolution" program, this year focusing on the former
Yugoslavia with six programs of twenty-six films and videos about the former
Communist Balkan nation's break up and subsequent series of conflicts. The
program is organized by journalist and Sarajevo Film Festival programmer,
Howard Feinstein. Last year's "Conflict and Resolution" inaugural focusing
on Israeli/Palestinian discord became eerily appropriate as the latest
intifada exploded in the Middle East and the bombing of the USS Cole took
place as the Festival got underway. A jury comprised of Sony Pictures
Classics' Michael Barker, Stephen Garrett of Time Out New York and Tom Keenan of Bard College will award the Dan & Ewa Abraham and Tammy Abraham Award of $25,000 that best represents the issues of the area.
A discussion on "Conflict and Resolution -- Yugoslavia: Breakup" on October
20th featuring several directors with films in the series will be one of
many panels at this year's HIFF, including topics as varied as gay films,
the artistry of Cuba, race, violence, visual artists in film, and digital
filmmaking. [Brian Brooks]
>> YESTERDAY in indieWIRE DAILY NEWS: IFP Report and New This Week
(indieWIRE/10.03.01) -- The 23rd Independent Feature Project Market
commenced on Sunday, somewhat more subdued than previous years in the
light of recent events in the city; Proving that small artistic-minded
movies do find a way into the world, two new acclaimed films that
premiered at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival last February will arrive
in theaters this week.