By Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi Sabet

Fajr Film Festival to premiere two Daesh dramas

January 31, 2018

TEHRAN – The 36th edition of the Fajr Film Festival, Iran’s major annual event that celebrates the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, will premiere “At Damascus Time” and “Emperor of Hell” that both recount stories on Daesh extremism.   

Due to the theme running through their stories, both movies have been predicted to take center stage at the festival.

“At Damascus Time” directed by Ebrahim Hatamikia tells the story of an Iranian pilot and his son as copilot who are seized by the Daesh forces in Syria when are in the country to deliver a cargo of humanitarian relief supplies to people in a war-torn region.

Directed by Parviz Sheikhtadi, “Emperor of Hell” reveals the key role that Arab muftis played in the rise of the radicalism of Daesh.

Hatamikia has previously made “Glass Agency”, “In the Color of Purple” and several other acclaimed movies that were mostly on the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the repercussions the event had in Iranian society.

Two years ago, when he attended the premiere of his movie “Bodyguard”, about a middle-aged man who protects high-ranking political figures in Iran, at the Fajr festival, he expressed his regrets for placing full-body scanners at the entrance of the theaters due to threats from the Daesh forces.

He lamented that Iranian filmmakers have not yet understood the meaning of the scanners and said many Iranian soldiers lost their lives to prevent the threat from reaching Tehran. 

Such remarks seemed to imply that a Daesh story would be the subject of his next film.

“At Damascus Time” has been made at the Owj Arts and Media Organization, a Tehran-based institution producing revolutionary works in art and cinema.

The film was shot on location in Iran and Syria. Hadi Hejazifar and Babak Hamidian are the sole Iranian actors of the cast, which is composed of a number of Syrian and Iraqi actors.  

In a press conference held in last August, Owj director Ehsan Mohammad-Hassani roughly estimated that the project would cost 80 billion rials (over $1.7 million). 

Hatamikia’s name has always added weight to the Fajr festival. He began his career with movies such as “Identity”, “The Scout”, “The Emigrant” and “The Union of the Benevolent”, which directly involved stories about the war.

All these movies brought him numerous awards at various editions of the festival, but the war had come to an end and Iran was pulling away from it.

Consequently, Hatamikia shifted on stories that were criticizing the government and society over their negligence of the veterans who made sacrifices during the war. “Glass Agency” and “From Karkheh to Rhine” belong to this category.

The gap between the revolutionaries and the younger generation, mammonism among the officials, and the waning of revolutionary values, were the subjects of several of Hatamikia’s other movies.  

The films with such subjects were not acceptable to certain people who always expected films about moral values of the war from Hatamikia. 
Then, his 2014 drama “Che” about the guerrilla war commander Mostafa Chamran was produced. It can be viewed a return to his attachment to war films.

However, his 2016 movie “Bodyguard” about the assassination of Iran’s nuclear scientists highlighted the generation gap again.

Both “At Damascus Time” and “Emperor of Hell” have been produced by Mohammad Khazaei, the producer of the controversial movie “Golden Collars” directed by Abolqasem Talebi.

Ali Nasirian (2nd R) acts in a scene from “Emperor of Hell” by director Parviz Sheikhtadi.

In his latest interview with the Persian service of FNA, director Sheikhtadi, referring to “Emperor of Hell” and “At Damascus Time”, said, “Making such movies would help improve the quality of Iranian cinema. In fact, we would approach real cinema with such films.”

He called other Iranian movies “telecinema”, which is only useful for entertaining people.

Sheikhtadi and Khazaei planned to premiere the film in the official competition of the last edition of the Fajr festival, but the then organizers announced that the movie would be screened in a non-competitive section. Consequently, they withdrew the film from the festival in protest over the decision.

In a joint statement, they called their movies “matchless in the cinema of the region” and accused the Fajr organizers of conservatism. 

They said, “This movie censures the Saudi rulers and shows how Daesh and other radical Islamic groups were born in America and Europe. It also reveals the Arab-Israeli union and the cooperation of the global Zionists and Saudis.”        

“Time will prove the film to be correct,” they added.

Change in the management of the festival allowed “Emperor of Hell” to premiere this year. Sheikhtadi has praised 83-year-old actor Ali Nasirian for his powerful performance in the film.

“We will watch one of his brilliant performances and masterpieces,” he told FNA. “Mr. Nasirian will thrill the audience at the Fajr with his mastery in the movie,” he stated.

Nasirian was also the leading actor of Sheikhtadi’s 2009 anti-Zionist drama, “Saturday’s Hunter”. 
The Fajr festival opens tomorrow in Tehran and will run for twelve days.

Photo Ebrahim Hatamikia (R) directs Hadi Hejazifar (L) and Babak Hamidian in a scene from “At Damascus Time”.


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