As the annual independent London Iranian Film Festival nears its opening night, Flickreel are casting an eye over one of the most innovative and significant nations in world cinema, which is currently going through something of a golden era, as it flourishes in the contemporary market with films that can be as genial as they are tragic, and politically astute.
Iranian cinema has never been far from critical acclaim, with films from this nation winning the grand prizes at prestigious film festival’s such as Cannes, Berlin and Venice across the years. Championed, primarily, by the work of Abbas Kiarostami, and films such as Taste of Cherry and The Wind Will Carry Us, there now appears to be a new master on the scene, as the Academy Award winning auteur Asghar Farhadi is becoming one of the most important and talented filmmakers in world cinema.
Farhadi’s unique approach to melodrama is sincere and compelling; with his films often enriched by a deeply moving and often tragic undercurrent. A Separation may have been the picture to gain the majority of his success, but other features such as About Elly and The Past are equally as accomplished.
Another notable name, still making films today, is Jafar Panahi, whose work is more politically inclined, as he so earnestly portrays the significance of culture and the arts, against what can be a volatile, oppressive backdrop. This director has a real talent for depicting such severity within accessible surroundings, such as the family friendly picture, The White Balloon, or comedy Offside – which at its core is exploring the mistreatment of women in Iranian culture.
His desire to explore socio-political matters in such a shrewd manner have led to some difficulties for the director though: with his documentary centred around the controversial 2009 election landing him in prison. The power of cinema prevailed though, and following an ardent campaign for his release, with the likes of Robert De Niro and Robert Redford involved, he rebelled against his ban from making movies to release This Is Not a Film.
Such filmmakers continuously push the boundaries of what is possible, but they would be nowhere without their devoted actors: with the immensely talented Peyman Moaadi and Golshifteh Farahani leading the way; even making the move over to Hollywood in such productions as Camp X-Ray and Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, respectively.
The above filmmakers and actors are just a mere snippet of what this nation has to offer at present, in an ever-engrossing cinematic environment. So as the 5th London Iranian Film Festival commences, be adventurous and be spontaneous in your approach – as you never quite know what hidden gems will be there to explore and enjoy.