Iran

Culture Warrior

In the late 1990s, two quite divergent Iranian films were recognized on the Western stage. During the 1999 Academy Awards, Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven, a touching Satyajit Ray-like neorealist drama about a pair of siblings searching for lost shoes, became the first Iranian film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Two years earlier, in May 1997, Abbas Kiarostami’s minimalist exercise Taste of Cherry won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the first Iranian film to do so. By the tail end of the twentieth century, Iran had made its way onto the stage of world-renowned arthouse filmmaking. While other cinematically underrepresented nations have oscillated in and out of prominence as the place where great new movies are being pioneered (South Korea, Romania), Iran has consistently, albeit quietly, given the West a limited but incredible output of challenging and innovative films.

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Culture Warrior

Editor’s Note: With Landon still celebrating Marcel Pagnol’s birthday, Cole was left to write this week’s entry. Please don’t riot. Every so often, The History Channel will play The Planet of the Apes, and it freaks me out. In recent years, the station has lost the meaning of its name completely, but a few years ago, I genuinely worried that someone would stumble upon the movie in progress, see the logo at the bottom, and be convinced that there was a time in Earth’s history that we were ruled by simians. There’s no proof, but considering that people have tried to rob banks with permanent marker all over their faces as a “disguise,” it seems possible that at least one person would be confused by a non-fiction station about our past playing a fictional movie where Moses pounded his fist into the sand in horror. Maybe there’s no real danger of that, but it still displays a certain power that movies have. They, like all stories, are how we share with each other. From person to person, from culture to culture, movies provide a certain shared sentience. A great story, told well, can transport and give insight into What It’s Like, especially in a world where photography and audio recording are relatively new technologies. The hitch is that there are still limitations to the art. The camera always lies, so even as we grasp toward understanding, it’s easy to be misled when it comes to experiences we have no personal […]

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Editor’s Note: This article will be updated in real time as the winners come in during the Academy Awards broadcast. Please join us for our Live-Blog tonight (because we ask nicely), and while you wait for the winners, check out our Oscar Week Series, where you will find breakdowns and predictions for all of the major categories. It’s finally here! The time of year where I can write a paragraph that no one will read because they’ve already scrolled down to see who’s won. But even though this won’t be seen by humans, here’s a personal reminder that this night may be about politics and back-slapping, but it’s also about the splendor of cinema. It’s about the magic of movies. The genius of thousands of images all strung together with blood, sweat and tears to create characters and a journey through the heart of a story. There are some great stories on display tonight. That’s what matters second most. What matters most, of course, is crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentation of their women. Let’s get to the winning, right? And the Oscar goes to…

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A little over a year after jailing and banning their most famous filmmaker from making movies, Iran might win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It would be a first for the nation whose government seems to strongly dislike creativity and freedom of speech, but its entry this year, A Separation, almost seems like a sure thing. Come February, writer/director Asghar Farhadi and Iran might be standing on the winner’s podium. But it’s not a done deal yet. A Separation and 8 other films were announced last week as part of the Oscar shortlist – just one step away from becoming an official nominee. They include a Danish comedy set in Argentina, a masculine drama about the underground world of illegal bovine growth hormones in Belgium, and something marvelous from Wim Wenders. It’s, to say the least, a varied group. Except that almost all of them are dramas from writer/directors.  So, yeah. Subject matter-wise though, it’s a full spectrum. The final 5 will be announced tomorrow morning, but here first are the trailers from each of the 9 shortlisted movies from far off lands (like Canada):

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A man and a woman sit before a judge discussing the dissolution of their marriage. Simin wants to move out of the country with her husband and daughter in tow, but Nader refuses as he needs to stay and care for his ill and elderly father. She can go, he says, but she cannot take their daughter. The judge agrees, and the two are dismissed back to the turmoil of their private lives. This simple setup could be the start of any number of familiar dramas in most countries around the globe, but Simin and Nader are a modern day Iranian couple which puts an unusual and rarely seen spin on the story that follows. What starts as a straight forward tale of one couple’s split becomes an exploration into the many divisions in their life. The separation between them is simply the first step into the gap between parent and child, male and female, right and wrong, and truth and fiction. A Separation is a mesmerizing journey into the everyday, but it’s an everyday that has remained foreign to much of the Western world.

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Continuing a noted dislike for creative types, Iran has arrested six filmmakers who they claim are creating negative news stories about the country while in the employment of the BBC Persian Service. Today, the BBC released a statement affirming that the news service had purchased the rights to the filmmakers’ films, but disavowing that they were direct employees. According to Fox News, the filmmakers were not identified by name. This move comes amidst the claims by the Iranian government that the BBC is responsible for encouraging and creating dissent amongst its citizens which led directly to the large-scale protest of the 2009 presidential election wherein incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedineejad beat reformist challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi. It also comes after the Iranian government effectively ended the career of internationally known director Jafar Panahi in December of last year. Is the BBC setting the record straight, or is it redefining employee status in order to help them get out of detainment? Without more information, it’s unclear what exactly is going on here, but it’s still safe to say that Iran is not a big fan of free speech.

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Back in May, Jafar Panahi was released by the Iranian government on bail while under charges of creating an “anti-regime” movie. Today, just seven months later, he finds himself facing a six-year long jail sentence and a two-decade long ban from filmmaking. He won’t be allowed to write or have a role in the production of any films for the next 20 years. He also can’t give interviews, speak to the media, or travel abroad during that time. Considering he’s 50, Panahi won’t be legally allowed to make another film until his 70th birthday. Hopefully the battle isn’t over yet completely, but if it is, it would be an incredible gesture for the 70-year-old Panahi to come out swinging as a birthday gift to the world. Hopefully before then, the regime in Iran will have changed its position. The acclaimed director made an absolutely beautiful film in The White Balloon and has a host of other moving films under his belt. He’s a Palm d’Or and Golden Lion winner. It’s a disgrace that the Iranian government would silence his voice simply for being involved in the Green Movement that protested the latest questionable election in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad retained his position. It’s despicable that this sort of thing can happen today, and it gives a great context to the freedom that filmmakers have elsewhere in the world. At the end of the day, at least they can make a movie as terrible as Garfield 2 without fear of being […]

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A group of college friends arrive at a seaside villa for a relaxing weekend, but there’s one partial stranger in the mix. Elly has been invited along in the hopes that she strike up a romance with one of the single men. The calm ends when an idyllic afternoon is shattered in a scene of pure chaos and uncertainty as one of the children, seemingly left unattended, is found floating in the ocean. And Elly has disappeared.

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Though set at a stadium and all about soccer, Offside offers only fleeting glimpses of the game; the big match takes place off-screen, watched by the soldiers obliged to guard the women through metal bars.

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