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A new wave of Iranian cinema is about to break out in Cannes

by Stewart Cole

Although Iran is in the throes of a deep economic crisis, hit by a hardline policy and a mismanaged pandemic, it is set to be a great year for Iranian cinema.

Surprisingly, Iran’s cinematic landscape is overflowing with powerful, fresh films that are likely to make international dives such as conversations between Tehran and world powers continue to stalemate over its revitalization nuclear deal that could lift the country ‘s deadly sanctions on exports.

This cinematic frenzy is reflected in the fact that Iranian photographs have won two places in the Cannes competition, plus one at Cannes Critics’ Week, which marks Iran’s first presence in this section dedicated to the first and second projects in almost two decades.

“What everyone is so happy about is that Cannes, fortunately, now represents the new generation of Iranian filmmakers,” he said. international distributor Mohammad Attebai, who heads the Tehran-based Iranian Independents.

Finally, after only a decade of ordinary suspects — those of Abbas Kiarostami, Asghar Farhadi, Jafar Panahi, and Mohammad Rasoulov — they finally choose others [Iranian] filmmakers, “said Attebai, a former consultant to the Venice Film Festival.

This case is “Holy Spider”, by Born in Iran, based in Denmark Ali Abbasi, who was the toast of Cannes in 2018 with the “Border” that defies his genre, which won the top award at Un Certain Regard.

Based on a true Iranian crime case, “Holy Spider”, which premieres at the Cannes competition on Sunday, is for a A family man named Saeed, who becomes a serial killer as he begins his own religious quest – to “cleanse” the holy Iranian city of Mashhad of street prostitutes.

Abbasi said the material was pulled from him after the serial killer was caught, lawsuits started and “suddenly, some people started cheering this guy on as a hero”.

“Some part of it [Iranian] the conservative media cheered. And that’s when it started to get interesting for me. I would say, “Why does anyone think he is a hero?” He said.

Although “Holy Spider” is an Iranian film, it was not shot in Iran after Iranian authorities refused to give Abbasi film license in the country.

“So I told myself that what I would gain instead of gaining the authenticity of Mashhad would be that I could really portray the real story,” said the director, who shot the film in Jordan.

He points out that “Holy Spider” is partly a thematic story, and the subject is very obvious: misogyny. “Dramatically, when you go and kill women, that is misogyny in its purest form,” he said. Abbasi also hopes that “it will be one of the few films about Iran with a relatively realistic view of society. “

Social change, especially for women, is at the heart of Cannes’s second Iranian film, Leila’s Brothers, a women’s empowerment drama set against the backdrop of a family overwhelmed by debts linked to international financial sanctions.

“The plight of the people is partly due to Western sanctions, but it also has its roots in the Iranian government,” said Saeed Roustaee, director of Leila’s Brothers. hardcore “Ebrahim Raisi took office last August, it is more difficult for filmmakers to obtain production licenses and local authorities.”impose more censorship than before. ”

Now Roustaee hopes that “Leila’s Brothers”, which is not yet licensed in Iran, will be able to unfold there without any cuts. “I prefer to give up watching this movie altogether [than] “to succumb to censorship,” he says.

But how is such a cinematic outburst possible in the midst of all this misery?

Atebai said there are currently 260 feature films in various stages of production in Iran, most of which have been completed. 95% of them are privately produced.

Due to Iran’s economic woes, budgets are shrinking, as is government support, said Attebai, who points out that “because of all the economic problems and corruption there is a bigger gap between rich and poor people” in Iran, where the middle class disappears.

“The rich get richer and [producing] The cinema is quite attractive to them. “They want to make a name for themselves,” he said.

And the creators of most of the photos are produced in Iran dream of starting an international film festival.

There are at least 10 films by up-and-coming Iranian directors, including Ahmad Bahrami (“The Wasteland”) and Vahid Jalilvand (“No Date, No Signature”) now in progress to enter Locarno, Venice and San Sebastian.

Although the directors are not all newcomers, they represent an emerging Iranian wave that has split.

“Thanks to social media and satellite TV in my country, big changes have taken place in the last 20 years,” said Ali Behrad, whose first feature film, Imagine, starring Leila Khatami (“A Separation”). ), is found in the critics of Cannes. ‘Week.

“Many believe that young directors are following in the footsteps of older ones. “But I think the new generation starts with its own cinema,” he added. “We have nothing to do with the previous generation. “We have learned to make films from a wider world.”

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