Iranian Cinema Is Finally Getting A NYC Festival, And Cinephiles Should Pay Attention

As for trends: Iranian cinema historically has not been known for aiming at the viewer’s funny bone, but in this sense, Farmanara’s “I Want to Dance” may prove prescient, since two films here illustrate a movement toward satiric comedy. The darkest, wildest and most extravagant of these, Mani Haghighi’s “Pig,” concerns a blacklisted filmmaker who’s suffering a multi-pronged midlife crisis while a serial killer is beheading prominent Iranian filmmakers; the fact that he hasn’t been targeted is, in a way, yet another insult he must endure. Brilliantly lensed by the great cinematographer Mahmoud Kalari, Haghighi’s film continues the Iranian tradition of films-about-filmmakers while adding its own acidic, absurdist spin.

Kamal Tabrizi’s “Sly,” meanwhile, offers a send-up of the Iranian political system that seems amazingly daring. It concerns a right-wing political hopeful (Hamed Behdad, whose hilarious performance is my favorite in the festival) who agrees to run as a left-winger to further his political ambitions. Incidentally, some people writing about this film have followed The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young in saying that it’s a satire of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I don’t think that’s Tabrizi’s intent but, rather, that the protagonist is more a general type of political climber. When I watched the film with Oliver Stone in Tehran, he called it “an Iranian ‘A Face in the Crowd.’” That’s closer to the mark.

Two other films may reflect the influences of Iran’s two most internationally renowned directors, Kiarostami and Asghar Farhadi. In the tradition of lyrical Kiarostami films that focus on young characters in distant parts of Iran, Abbas Amini’s sophomore feature “Hendi and Hormoz” concerns a 13-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy who enter into a traditional arranged marriage in a village on the Persian Gulf, then must get to know each other as they also deal with the challenges of poverty and misfortune. Distinguished by its extraordinary acting, luminous humanism and lyrical look, this is easily one of the most moving and impressive of recent Iranian films. And the impact of Farhadi, whose two Oscar wins during this decade have brought Iranian cinema to new heights of international recognition, might be detected in the tight, suspenseful plotting, masterly mise-en-scene and terrific acting of Asghar Yousefinejad’s “The Home,” which concerns the complex machinations and hidden agendas of a family preparing to bury its patriarch. It’s rare for a debut work to win Best Film at the Fajr festival, but this one deservedly did.

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Of the cutting-edge films by younger directors in the festival, easily the most startling and provocative is Houman Seyyedi’s “Sheeple,” the warped tale of a criminal family in south Tehran at war internally and with other vicious lowlifes. With its machinegun-fire dialogue, high-octane pacing, explosive violence and bravura acting (Navid Mohammedzadeh is a standout), the film plays like a melding of “Mean Streets” and Brazil’s “City of God,” directed by a meth-crazed Tarantino. Like other films noted here, it richly deserves a look-see by U.S. distributors.

Finally, since the great Kiarostami indirectly led to the creation of the Iranian Film Festival New York, it’s fitting that our first edition includes two documentary portraits of him. One, the warm, observant “76 Minutes and 15 Seconds with Abbas Kiarostami,” was made by cinematographer and documentary director Seifollah Samadian, who worked with Kiarostami on several projects; it will be preceded by the New York premiere of Kiarostami’s last short, “Take Me Home.” The other documentary, “A Walk with Kiarostami,” is a lovely 30-minute short made by critic, professor and longtime Kiarostami friend Jamsheed Akrami. It will be part of a program titled “Iranian Cinema Through the Lens of Jamsheed Akrami,” in which we will show clips from three documentary features that Akrami has made about the history of Iranian cinema and I will discuss them with him. These films, which are great ways to learn about Iran’s cinema, have just been released on DVD by Kino Lorber and copies will be on sale at the festival.

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Source : https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/iranian-cinema-finally-getting-nyc-154702508.html

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