Boycott lifted

CANNES — Iranian film execs aren’t letting their complete blank in the official selection stop them from descending on the Croisette in force.

Some 25 new Iranian features will be screened in the market, with dozens more, including docus and shorts, available for buyers.

It’s a far cry from last year when a group of Iranian industryites called for a fest boycott and petitioned their filmmaking compatriots to do the same after they were shut out from all sections. The brouhaha meant the official Iranian pavilion was entirely empty for the duration of the fest, although there was a small Iranian booth in the market.

“I’m very glad that Farabi Cinema Foundation has worked hard to make a space for Iranian cinema,” said leading producer Mohammed Atebbai. “We still have many problems, but this is a big step forward for the film industry in Iran.”

Farabi is arguably Iran’s most important state-affiliated film org. In addition to Farabi, execs from indie shingles Iranian Independents and Bamdab Intl. media, sales agent Sheherazad Media Intl., as well as government orgs Cima Media Intl., Kanoon and Iranian Society of Young Cinema are all hawking their new projects.

Part of the reason for the turnaround in attitude is acceptance that this year’s Iranian crop was not up to par with previous vintages, which had earned fest raves at Cannes and elsewhere.

“Even film insiders here are disappointed with the lack of quality of Iranian films,” said Atebbai. “Another problem is that 33 Iranian films were submitted to the official selection. That’s an amazing number and can have a negative impact on films that actually have a chance. Everyone who makes a film now believes it should be submitted to Cannes.”

That said, some film execs continue to grumble that fallout from Iranian government’s political disputes with the West is another reason behind the lack of Iranian films in competish. One Iranian exec, who insisted on anonymity, complained that he had been informed by fest programmers that his film was being reserved for three sections only for it to be dropped at the last minute.

Ironically, the one feature with an Iranian connection — Marjane Satrapi’s animated “Persepolis,” about life in Iran around the time of the Islamic revolution — is unlikely to screen in the country due to its political content. “In Iran, it will be impossible,” said producer Marc-Antoine Robert.

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