By Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi Sabet

Fajr filmgoers spend emotional night on Sardasht chemical attack tragedy

February 5, 2020 - 19:3

TEHRAN – Filmgoers left Tehran theaters teary-eyed Tuesday evening after watching director Mohammad-Hossein Mahdavian’s new film “Walnut Tree” on the profound tragedy of Iraq’s chemical attack on the Iranian town of Sardasht in 1987.

The film, which is competing in the 38th Fajr Film Festival, tells the true story of Qader Mulanpur, a man who was away when his family was affected by the chemical attack in a village near Sardasht. His effort to save his pregnant wife and their three children are in vain and they die one by one from the fatal wounds sustained as a result of the chemical attack.    

In 1987 Iraq bombarded the Iranian town of Sardasht and the surrounding region with chemical weapons, killing over 1000 and injuring over 8000 civilians, many of whom were permanently disabled.

A press conference organized at Mellat Cineplex after a special screening for critics and journalists was dominated by remarks made by Mahdavian and members of his cast and crew lamenting the total disregard of the people who were injured in the region, which is home to a large Kurdish population.

“People in Kordestan are surely one of the subjects that could be considered in a movie like this,” Mahdavian said at the press conference.

“Minorities in our country have endured sufferings for their homeland and have always been ignored. They suffered huge losses for their country as they were on the frontlines, but their grief was disregarded in deprivation. This is a serious grievance,” he lamented.

“I tried to make a film that is patriotic and at the same time critical of the government,” noted Mahdavian whose “Standing in the Dust”, a biopic on Iranian commander Ahmad Motevasselian, was picked as best film at the Fajr festival in 2016.

Payman Maadi, who portrays Qader Mulanpur in the film, also participated in the conference by phone.

The star of the Oscar-winning movie “A Separation” said, “I love Kurdish people and I’m proud of playing the role in the movie and I thank the people of Kordestan for letting me be a small part of their great story and wear their attire.”

“I hope I could owe a debt of gratitude to the history of my country [by playing this role] and I bow down before the grief my people have endured and I wish a better life for my people than this,” he added.   

Maadi described the decision of Mahdavian and producer Mostafa Ahmadi as “a great job to portray a horrible disaster.”

Mahdavian praised Maadi for his powerful performance in the film and called him the best option for the role.

“We were making a film, which was heavily dependent on the actor that was chosen to play Qader’s role,” he said and added, “In addition, the film has a humanitarian basis and the potential to be screened outside Iran, so it was appropriate to select an actor that is familiar to the world.”  

Mehran Modiri, one of the few Iranian actors who fought in the war, stars as Dr. Yazdanbakhsh in the movie.

At the press conference, he also called himself a lover of Kurdish people and said, “They are really cultured and honorable people.”

“I agreed to take part in this project since we owe a debt of gratitude to these people who were really hospitable to us during wartime,” he added.  

In a recent interview with the Persian service of MNA, Mahdavian has said that he was thinking of a wider audience beyond national boundaries for “Walnut Tree”.

“This tragedy could occur anywhere in the world,” he noted and added that the use of weapons of mass destruction is a crisis of the modern world, and people of the world should realize what weapons of mass destruction are when we talk about them.” 

Mahdavian began his career 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.

His “The Midday Event”, a political drama that features the terrorist atrocity of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization in Iran of the 1980s, was named best film at the Fajr festival in 2017.

Photo: Director Mohammad-Hossein Mahdavian and cast member Mehran Modiri attend a press conference for “Walnut Tree” during the 38th Fajr Film Festival at Mellat Cineplex in Tehran on February 4, 2020. (Mehr/Majid Asgaripur)

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