By Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi Sabet

Political, social dramas lead Fajr Film Festival

February 1, 2020 - 9:4

TEHRAN – The 38th edition of the Fajr Film Festival, which features the major productions of the Iranian cinema every year during February, will be dominated by political and social dramas.

Iranian filmmakers generally give the least information possible about the plots of their movies before the premiere, so it is difficult to write about their productions. Somehow, everything in Iran may be considered political and all roads lead to politics. 

Based on the limited information published about the 22 entries in the official competition, four movies of the lineup revolve around political stories from contemporary Iranian history.

“Walnut Tree” is the main highlight of the movies. Director Mohammad-Hossein Mahdavian has fictionalized a true story about Iraq’s chemical attack on the Iranian town of Sardasht in 1987, which killed over 1000 and injuring over 8000 civilians, many of whom were permanently disabled. His career in cinema began in 2013 with the docudrama “The Last Days of Winter” about the 27-year-old Iranian commander Gholamhossein Afshordi during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. In all of his subsequent movies, he also focused on political stories from the history of post-revolutionary Iran.

Director Ebrahim Hatamikia is always associated with stories about war and political issues. He has not provided any details about his latest movie “Exodus” (“Exit”), but, due to his background in Iranian cinema, it can be deemed a political drama in advance.    

“Abadan 11, 60” directed by Mehrdad Khoshbakht represents people’s fight against Iraqi forces in the southwestern Iranian city of Abadan during the early months of the Iran-Iraq war. The film also narrates the key role played by the radio in mobilizing civilians for the battle against the Iraqis.  

Behruz Shoeibi, director of “Cyanide” about Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization’s terrorist operations in Iran during the 1980s, is participating in the Fajr festival with “Day of Chaos”.

He described the movie as a social drama, which mainly focuses on people’s daily economic problems that led to protests across the country last November. 

“There are some criticisms [of the current economic situation in the country] in the film,” he said in an interview with the Fajr organizers and added, “I hope these criticisms are regarded, and I hope the film will be able to spread the word about how a large segment of the people are facing economic problems.”

“The Undercover” directed by Amir-Abbas Rabiei about the activities of the Tudeh Party of Iran during the 1980s will premiere in New Look, a section dedicated to the directorial debut feature-films.

Makeup artist Saeid Malekan, who is also the producer of many acclaimed movies such as “Life+1 Day”, will present his debut directorial movie named “Day Zero”. The film crew described the movie as “a different narrative about a raging contemporary event.” 

Malekan and Bahram Tavakkoli, the director of the acclaimed war drama “The Lost Strait”, have co-written the screenplay. Due to their backgrounds, it is likely that the film can be considered a political drama. Malekan was the producer of the “The Lost Strait”.

Young filmmaker Mohammad Kart, who is known for his acclaimed short “Pedovore” (“Child Eater”), is taking part in the festival with his debut feature, “Butterfly Swimming”.

“The Fajr festival is the place, in which we are able to make people’s voice heard by officials; if there is a protest, it should be made by the cinema,” Kart noted in an interview with the organizers. Rasul Sadr-Ameli, the director of the award-winning drama “The Girl in the Sneakers”, is the producer of the movie starring veteran filmmaker Alireza Davudnejad. Due to all these characteristics, everybody is naturally curious about this production.

“To Die in the Pure Water” is another of Fajr’s highlights. Directed by Tehran-based Afghan brothers Navid and Jamshid Mahmudi, the film narrates another story about the miserable life of their fellow Afghan migrants.

After making his previous movie “Beyond the Clouds” in the slums of Mumbai, Oscar-nominated director Majid Majidi is attending the Fajr festival with his latest movie “Khorshid” about child labor. An all-star cast has collaborated with him in this project.

With its sole comedy film “Good, Bad, Garish 2: The Secret Army” by Peyman Qasemkhani, Fajr’s lineup this year is lacking in this genre. Most of the comedy films produced in the Iranian cinema over the past few years have been mediocre. A successful box office is the only target for the producers of such productions, so they do not think of screening their movies in any festival whether in Iran or abroad. On the other hand, Iranian festivals traditionally do not take comedy films seriously.

However, Qasemkhani’s films and writings in the comedy genre are exceptions. Perhaps his latest movie could raise a few smiles among the dearth of laughter on these difficult days our country is experiencing.                    

The unfavorable climate prevailing in Iranian society and politics over the past few weeks affected the Fajr festival. A large number of Iranian cineastes announced that they would not take part in the festival in sympathy for the victims of the Ukrainian jetliner, which was unintentionally targeted by Iran. However, this movement has officially been viewed as a boycott of the governmental event.

In any case, the festival kicks off today without an opening ceremony. Earlier, the organizers had announced that they would not arrange an official opening ceremony in order to allocate its cost to flood relief in Sistan-Baluchestan.

Photo: A poster for the 38th Fajr Film Festival.

MMS/YAW

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