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October 1, 2010  A film may speak a million words!

Kurdishaspect.com - Prepared by Art-in-Mind

The 3rd Annual Iranian Film Festival in San Francisco was held on September 18-19, 2010. The festival, featuring 30 different movies, was a tribute to Fakhri Khorvash, a pioneering actress from Kermashan, the largest Kurdish city in Iran. All the films deserve a special review which is beyond the scope of this report. The purpose here is to cover the highlights of the movies seen in 1001 words.

Mrs. Khorvash was the main actress of Prince Ehtejab, a classic movie about a Ghajar prince and his maid. Obviously the director, Bahman Farmanara, has a remarkable insight into the impact that patriarchy, brutality, child molestation, and abuse has on the development of an individual. While Prince Ehtejab had been made during Pahlavi Dynasti and was critical of Ghajar Dynasty, the rest of the films were contemporary and critical of the Islamic Dynasty in Iran. The topics of the films ranged form art, poetry, and painting to politics, human rights, and space travel. The festival was a short exposure to a rich cultural heritage and ideal for those in Diaspora who cannot visit Iran.

“Chasing Che”, directed by Alireza Refougaran, an amateur film maker whose unfulfilled dream had been to follow Che’s path. The highlight of the film was when Che’s daughter disclosed in a conference in Tehran what his father stood for. She revealed that contrary to the claims made by Iranian authorities, her father was fighting for freedom and justice, not for any specific religion.

“Takhti” was about the life of a legendary athlete in Iran. Shahmohamaddi, the director, reviews how Takhti was loved by the left and the right in Iran because of his humble character, simplicity, and fighting for people via wrestling. Takhti’s romantic life, sexual orientation, and suicide remained a mystery despite this comprehensive documentary.

Adel Yaraghi makes one question in his short film “Door,” whether there is a difference between forced emancipation and forced veil. Interestingly Reza Shah like Ataturk preferred forced emancipation of women. Fifty years later, Iran turned to an Islamic theocracy and every woman was forced to cover herself.

Bakhtiari’s Alphabet, directed by Sima Sedigh and Reza Ghadyani, was about the challenges of the largest nomadic tribe in Bakhtiari. The state’s rules and regulations do not seem to apply to this resilient, hard working, and self sufficient people. This recent film is not a rerun but very similar to the “Grass, A Nation’s Battle for Life” that was made in 1925 by Marguerite Harrison and her co-travelers to the Bakhtiari region. 

In “Letters to the President”, Petr Lom almost presented the same factual yet humane image of Mr. Mahmood Ahamdinejad that Oliver Stone had given to Mr. George Bush in “W”. Interestingly the person in charge of the letter to the Iranian president in the Kurdish region performs his role as if he has no emotional connection to the local residents, which might be symbolic for ethnic disconnect.

The director of “A Very Close Encounter”, Ismaeel Mihandoust, turns a car accident into a romantic suspense and shows how the life of the upper middle class in Iran resembles that of other people in the developing world.

In the film “Border”, directed by Sattar Chamani-Gol, the issue of the artificial division of the Kurdish land between Iran and Iraq is expressed in a 10 minute film. It is a reminder that arbitrary governmental orders can not prevent people from cross border romance and relationships.

Christian Frei reviews the fulfilled dream of the entrepreneur, Anosh Ansari, in “Space Tourist” and encourages the audience not to give up on their dreams even if they are as grand as space travel.  

“Salam Rugby”, directed by Faramarz Beheshti, was about the obstacles of female athletes in Islamic Iran. It is a unique way to bring gender discrimination in Islamic Iran to the attention of the world.

The highlight of “How Green Was Our Valley”, by Fereshteh Joghataei, is the name of a shrine in a flooded village. People expect a miracle from the shrine of Imamzadeh Shahpour. While an Imamzadeh is expected to carry an Arabic name, Shapour is an Iranian name and it is not clear how he became an Imamzadeh or Arab saint.

“The Final Word” directed by Moslem Mansouri, is about the late prominent poet Ahmad Shamlu. Two impressive points in the contemporary poet’s words were the role of Ida’s love in his life and his determination not to write for the government but for the people. 

The “Country Life”, was about the hospitality, hard work, simplicity, and resilience of the people in a Kurdish village. Hossein Jehani showed how a compassionate painter and photographer made the images of the villagers an unforgettable historical record.

In the “Father Gave Water,” Mehdi Jafari depicts sharing as a beautiful concept in a three minute film. Obviously the movie was done with the knowledge of the teacher as the authority figure, but the children in the class room did not know about it. The inherent innocence, sympathy, and sense of sharing among children were shown artistically in this short movie. The point might be that regardless of the disconnect between authority and the people, the people will support each other when the time comes.

In “Diplomacy,” John Goldman depicts the dogmatism of an American and Iranian diplomat and shows how their extreme views are not supported by the general public played by two translators.

“Reza Shouting Back,” was about the life of the courageous and dedicated National Geographic’s photo journalist Reza. Connie Reinhart and Tom Donohue review how Reza fought back with his camera against human rights violation from the killing of Kurds in Iran to the crimes in Afghanistan and Rwanda by those who were in power.

In short those who are interested in art and culture are encouraged to attend such festivals for a deeper understanding of people’s challenges in life. If an image can express a thousand words, a film may express a million of them.

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