By Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi Sabet

Iran seeks extension to film co-production plans overseas    

January 6, 2018

TEHRAN – The Cinema Organization of Iran (COI), where the major policies for Iranian cinema are made, is working on special plans to extend the country’s overseas collaboration on film production.

The numerous awards won by Iranian movies at international events over the first decade after the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution achieved global recognition for Iran’s post-revolution cinema, but the organization no longer desires to limit Iranian cinema to producing films only for global festivals. 

A cinema that only produces art films for a limited audience is no longer responsive to market changes in the modern world, COI director Mohammad-Mehdi Heidarian told the Tehran Times in a recent interview. 

“Cinema is an art-industry issue and its industrial dimension requires a dynamic economy that can liven up the production… if we cannot provide the necessary funds to produce new films we will have to spend all our resources just to produce films for screening at art houses and then to be kept in archives,” he added. 

He said that Iran’s cinema needs to move into the global film market to continue its dynamic life and noted that joint ventures with overseas film companies is the only way to guarantee a dynamic life for the country’s cinema.

Co-productions help Iran generate income for its local cinema, he noted. 

Over the past few years, a number of Iranian cineastes have begun joint productions with several overseas companies after they acknowledged the need for collaboration in the international arena.

“Beyond the Clouds” by Majid Majidi, “Yeva” by Anahid Abad and “1st Born” by Ali Atshani are the latest examples of films Iranian filmmakers have made along with foreign partners.

“Beyond the Clouds” is Majidi’s first India-set movie whose story is set in Mumbai’s impoverished underclass.

He made the movie in 2017 in collaboration with the Indian companies, Zee Studios and Namah Pictures.

“Yeva”, a co-production between Iran’s Farabi Cinema Foundation and the National Cinema Center of Armenia, was shot in Armenia.

The film, which was Armenia’s submission to the 90th Academy Awards in the best foreign-language film category, narrates a melodrama set in the country.

As the first co-production between Iran and America, “1st Born” lays out its comic plot on the difficult relations between Iran and the U.S.  

The story of the comedy is also entirely set in the U.S. with an all-American cast.

Cinema Organization of Iran director Mohammad-Mehdi Heidarian speaks with a Tehran Times journalist during an interview at his office in Tehran on November 26, 2017. (Tehran Times/Maryam Kamyab)

ran also pursues film projects with companies in China, Malaysia, Japan and several other countries.

Heidarian said that Iran welcomes any proposal for cooperation on cinema. However, he added that close affinities between Iran and other countries could ease the way for a joint venture.

He added that Iran is also eager to collaborate with countries having a professional cinema. “The human subjects can shape the common ground for cooperation with such countries,” he noted.    

Based on Islamic laws, using strong language and depiction of romance, nudity, and actors with skimpy clothing are forbidden in Iranian cinema. However, Heidarian says that they should not be considered as “absolute hindrances” to plans for co-productions.     

“We should try to find a solution for the obstacles hindering the way of companies eager to collaborate with our cineastes,” he stated and added, “However, all our efforts to work on a joint production would be in vain if our identity is not acknowledged or if there exists a desire to make us appear similar to others.”

“We should apply international standards in making films as we do our best to maintain our national identity and cultural and civilizational characteristics,” he noted.

Iran and the neighboring countries all share much in common that can be pursued as subjects for co-production projects. The life stories of many cultural luminaries, such as Molana Jalal ad-Din Rumi, Farabi, Muhammad Iqbal and Magtymguly Pyragy, have the potential to be turned into biopics with cooperation from among the countries.

However, the lack of consensus about personalities and many other general issues has thwarted collaboration. Therefore, they sometimes prefer to team up with companies away from the region to put their ideas into practice.

An extraneous issue may even pop up. Screenwriter David Franzoni and producer Stephen Joel Brown from Hollywood agreed in June 2016 to work on a biopic on Rumi. Franzoni and Brown made a trip to Turkey to meet with Rumi experts and visited Rumi’s mausoleum in Konya for their production. But, it would seem more appropriate that Iran and Turkey should pool their resources to produce such a film. 

Heidarian views Rumi’s life story as a potential subject for a co-production that Iran and Turkey have lost. 

He said the life stories of personalities without distinction of where they were born and died can be subjects for co-productions between Iran and the neighboring countries.  

The Cinema Organization of Iran is seeking in advance to prepare the necessary conditions for co-production. Choosing to work with the governmental organizations of private companies of the countries is the secondary issue. 

However, Heidarian said that private companies are infinitely preferable, because a change in the relations between two countries may imperil co-production projects with governmental organizations.

He asked writers and film critics around the world to write profusely about Iranian cinema in order to help Iran’s new extensive plans to cooperate with international companies worldwide. 

MMS/YAW

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