It’s easier than ever to explore the national cinema of any given country or region. One need only do a little bit of digging about, say, Korean cinema to find a wealth of writing about Hong Sang-soo, Park Chan-wook, Kim Ki-duk and more and explore what’s most interesting. But for each nation’s handful of cinematic giants, there are a number of other directors being overshadowed. Iran is no different: while the country is responsible for some of the most vital and interesting filmmakers of the past several decades (Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi, Mosen Makhmalbaf and his daughters Samira and Hana, Asghar Farhadi), most writing about Iranian cinema tends to focus on their films and some other notable early works like “Gaav” and “The House is Black.” It can be hard for newer or smaller filmmakers to get noticed even when they do get coverage.
With that in mind, the new website Iranian Film Daily is a valuable guide to the world of Iranian cinema. Started by film journalist Ali Naderzad, the publication is not a film criticism site, but rather a site dedicated to drawing attention to Iranian films playing at film festivals, vying for Academy Award attention or otherwise trying to find an audience. Naderzad launched the site last month, and has been busy since then covering films by Iranian (or Iranian-American) filmmakers and performers.
Naderzad wrote that Iranian Film Daily was conceived “within a business perspective” with both industry professionals (distributors and producers) and foreign cinema fans in mind, and the latter might want to check it out for its features on up-and-coming filmmakers in particular. Certainly the latest film by Iranian-American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani is of interest, but “99 Homes” has Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield as a possible audience attraction. “Buttercup Bill,” the directorial debut by female Iranian-American filmmaker Emilie Richard-Froozan, on the other hand, might get lost in the shuffle if it doesn’t have anyone to draw attention to it. Here’s Naderzad’s piece on the film (which, interesting side note, is co-directed by singer Tony Bennett’s granddaughter Remy):
In the course of ninety-five minutes “Buttercup Bill,” described by the production as “psychosexual dark romance,” unspools its disquieting tale about two childhood friends, Patrick and Pernilla (they’re more like siblings separated at birth) who reunite after a tragedy. Images of their past and present are hurled at us, dream-like, while drug-fuelled hazes and memories control their every moment together. They struggle to suppress what is within although clearly, their utmost yearning is for one another. And yet, there is a reason why they should remain forever apart.
The site is also a valuable resource for learning about what’s actually cleaning up at the box office in Iran. Naderzad writes that model/actress Elnaz Shakerdoost’s films are reminiscent of bad Latino telenovelas, but her films are consistently popular, and that might not necessarily be a bad thing:
Shakerdoost has appeared in dozens of films, each more forgettable than the other, but nevertheless very viable commercially according to several Iranian film journalists I reached out to. And, as the theory goes, so long as mainstream cinema thrives there will be financing for Iranian art-house fare, also. And so although Elnaz Shakerdoost will probably not appear in the next Samira Makhmalbaf film or walk down the red carpet at Cannes, dismissing her entirely as a major-league slashie would be to miss the point: Shakerdoost is an important player, perhaps the most important one, in Iran’s film industry. A careful glance at the numbers led to the following likelihood: if it’s a film with Shakerdoost in it, it’ll probably have a jumbo-size budget and clean up at the box office.