Download Close Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present, and Future PDF

TitleClose Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present, and Future
PublisherVerso
ISBN 139781859846261
CategoryArts - Film
Author
LanguageEnglish
File Size11.6 MB
Total Pages311
Table of Contents
                            Contents
Illustrations
Introduction
1- On Modernity and the Making of a National Cinema
2 - The Making of an Iranian Filmmaker: Abbas Kiarostami
3 - The Sight of the Invisible World: The Cinema of Bahram Beiza'i
4 - Bahman Farmanara: Twice upon a Time
5 - Once upon a Filmmaker: Conversation with Mohsen Makhmalbaf
6 - In the Speculum of the Other: The Feminine Figure of Modernity
7 - Whither Iranian Cinema? The Perils and Promises of Globalization
Filmography
Notes
Acknowledgments
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 1

C L O S E U P
IRANIAN CINEMA, PAST,

PRESENT AND FUTURE

H A M I D D A B A S H I

V E R S O

London • New York

Page 2

First published by Verso 2001
© Hamid Dabashi 2001

All rights reserved
The moral rights of the author have been asserted

Verso
UK: 6 Meard Street, London W I F OEG

USA. 180 Vanck Street, New York, NY 10014-4606
www.versobooks.com

Verso is the imprint of New Left Books

ISBN 1-85984-332-8 (paperback)
ISBN 1-85984-626-2 (hardback)

British Library Catologuing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress

Typeset by The Running Head Limited, www.therunninghead.com
Printed and bound in England by Bath Press Ltd, Avon

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Page 155

BAHMAN FARMANARA 145

reformist newspapers of the Khatami period. So he also identifies with the
reformists; in fact, you give a forum for a speech by Khatami. So, Bahman
Farjami is an intellectual of the prerevolutionary period who also identifies with
the reformist movement. This is in sharp contrast with much that has happened
over the last quarter of a century to the Iranian secular intellectuals who initially
identified with the 1979 revolution and were subsequently alienated from it. As
a result, he is a positive portrayal of an Iranian intellectual, one who has hope,
who is engaged and follows the news, and who has not abandoned politics. He is
concerned about the fate of the Iranian writers and about the serial murder of the
secular intellectuals. I wonder—and this is the link that concerns me, the link
between the prerevolutionary intellectuals and what is happening after the revo-
lution—I wonder whether, in your own creative construction of this character,
you see him as the representative of the intellectuals of the prerevolutionary
period who had their hopes and aspirations in the revolution and yet were dis-
appointed. This was not really the revolution that they were hoping for, and yet
your character begins to place hope in the reformist movement, yet not in a way
that will denigrate the prerevolutionary intellectual culture, but in fact, restore
dignity to it. How much were you conscious of this?

BF I was conscious of it simply because Golshiri and I had a very close rela-
tionship; aside from a professional relationship, we were very close friends. He
was an example of a truly revolutionary intellectual who was affected by the rev-
olution and in fact wanted it. When the revolution happened, he fought against
the repressive regime, but at the same time, devoted his full energy to create
something positive from the change that happened in the postrevolutionary
period. And if I have a model for this character, it was Golshiri who was always
in the back of my mind. This is a man who grew through time. He did not get
locked in the past but actually developed with the movement. Young writers
such as Mandanipour, Kourosh Asadi, and Moniru Ravanipour would come to
visit him and he would sit with them for hours listening to what they had
written, because he wanted to give back what he had gained from the culture to
the new generation. That's also the way I always felt in my own relationship
with young filmmakers and writers. In my mind, Golshiri is really the model. I
have created this character because I am a filmmaker and this is my story as well.

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146 CLOSE UP

It's a personal story, but also illustrates that if you don't move with time, you are
not true to anybody, including yourself. And some of our friends, both writers
and filmmakers, got locked in that past, and out of opposition to things that are
happening in Iran, they also locked themselves out of the new developments,
which, like the younger generation, I find very exciting. So, that is the kind of
thing that I like. I'm not a pessimist by nature. I work fourteen hours every day,
and I always create a job for myself. The last sequence in Smell of Camphor, Fra-
grance of Jasmine quotes Kafka: "When you throw a stone in the water, you can't
control the waves." I wanted him to throw the stone, regardless of how murky
the water is, because, in effect, he is saying, "I'm alive. I'm back and I'm going
to keep working." This is the way I've always related to my country, even during
the ten years that I was living abroad, by keeping in contact with friends like
Kiarostami, traveling back and forth, reading voraciously, and so on. I always try
to keep in touch with what is happening. But during the last ten years living in
Iran I realized, "OK, this hand has been dealt to us. What are we going to do?"
Either we are going to roll with it and try to make something positive out of it,
or we can bang our heads against a brick wall and not be positive.

HD How far were you in the making of this movie when Golshiri died?

BF He died after I finished the film. He saw the film the last time he was in my
house—I always celebrate the last Friday of the year and have thirty or forty
people over. After seeing it he said, "You know why I'm very happy with this
film? First, because now they can't say that Prince Ebtejab was a fluke. Second, it
wasn't based on any of my stories, you wrote it and now you can take full credit
for it."

HD So as fate would have it, your film became a homage to Golshiri?

BF Yes. It did. And that's why I'm actually going back to one of his stories for
my next film. It's called The Dark Hand and the Light Hand. I've based the script
on a story of his called The Dark Side of the Moon. Well, he was an important part
of my life, both as a close personal friend, and as a writer. I still feel a deep
sorrow; I am still grieving for his death. So, yes, it became a homage to him. At
the same time, it also predicted the death that has greatly affected me.

Page 310

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 301

thank him properly in the publicity of these pages. For years I have been
privileged in his close friendship and the confidence with which he has kept me
in his company. There has emerged a Cannes camaraderie around Mohsen that
includes his distinguished daughter Samira, his wife Marziyeh Meshkini and his
two younger children Meysam and Hana. I am honored to be counted among
them.

In Tehran, the distinguished Iranian film critic, Houshang Golmakani, has
been extremely helpful in facilitating my access to Persian sources. Mohammad
Ateba'i and Reza Safiri helped me in securing still photos and in a number of
other important details. Many other Iranian friends, among them Mohammad
Beheshti, Mehdi Faridzadeh, Mohammad Aghajani, Jahangir Kosari, and Shirin
Dibadj have been generous with their time and help in ways impossible to
describe. In Paris, Mohammad Haghighat and Kazem Musavi, and the staff of
the MK2, have been indispensable sources of support. In Cannes, I have bene-
fited from the friendship and hospitality of Simin Mo'tamad Arya and Nasrin
Medard de Chardon, two valiant souls championing the cause of Iranian cinema.
Through Simin Mo'tamad Arya, I came to know Rose Issa in London and benefit
from her long-standing support of Iranian cinema. In New York, the office of the
New Yorker Films has been a central gathering place of the best of Iranian
cinema. Dan and Toby Talbot, Jose Perez, Susan Knubel, and Sasha Breman have
been great friends and generous sources of support. The wonderful staff of the
New York Film Festival and MOMA make their labor of love the source of joy
and inspiration for thousands. New York is also now irreversibly linked in my
mind with the name of four wonderful artists: Shirin Neshat, Nicky Nodjumi,
Nahid Haghighat, and Ardeshir Mohassess. I am privileged by their friendship.
To Mohammad Ghaffari I owe an enduring friendship and great artistic
sensibility. Sara Nodjumi and Robi Ghaffari are the standard-bearers of the next
generation.

Finally at Verso, my sincere gratitude goes to Colin Robinson and his interest
in my work. Varese Layzer did a splendid editorial reading of an earlier version of
this book. But my profoundest thanks go to Amy Scholder who finally brought
this book to light. In that light, how can I ever thank David Williams of The
Running Head for the gift of his grace in magically metamorphosing my
meandering musings into the quiet elegance of these pages? He saw through the

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302 CLOSE UP

final stages of production with maddening speed and a miraculous sensitivity to
the sense and nonsense of my text.

I have never accumulated so much debt in the writing of a book. My joy in its
completion pales in comparison to the gift of so many good friends I have made.

Hamid Dabashi
New York
Summer 2001

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