Sci-fi animated feature takes local toons into new genre

While the world’s film community continues to protest the detention of Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi, another helmer from Iran traveled to Italy’s recent Cartoons on the Bay festival to unveil a sneak peek of the futuristic “Tehran 2121,” billed as the country’s first sci-fi feature, live action or animated.

Shot by locally popular animator Bahram Azimi, using a rotoscoping technique but with a “Blade Runner” aesthetic, “Tehran 2121,” almost seems intended as Iran’s answer to opponents of its hard-line government.

Azimi described the pic as being about “a far-away future in which, despite how much our country will have changed, the morality and the ways of Iranians will remain the same.”

“Tehran 2121” producer Mohammad Abolhassani says, “The Islamic Republic is happy to use the tools of culture to spread peace and equality.” He called Iran “the top animation nation of the Middle East,” citing 200 companies in the country’s toon sector.

Animation is often used in Iran for government campaigns, such as the series of computer-animated adverts that Azimi shot in 2006 to spruce up the image of Iran’s police force.

Seven minutes of the big-budget “Tehran 2121” unspooled at the Italo toon fest.

Pic revolves around a 160-year-old man, who, deeming his death to be imminent, wants his niece, to come to Tehran so he can pass on his inheritance to her, on condition that she gets married.

During her travels, she encounters three men: a taxi driver, a rock singer and the owner of a robot shop.

Co-produced by Tehran-based Nas Animation Studio and Urban Image Institute, “Tehran 2121” is aiming for a September 2011 completion date.

Meanwhile, Cannes Film Festival president Gilles Jacob recently launched an appeal that Panahi, arrested in March for his political views, be freed to attend Cannes as a juror, and more than 500 international filmmakers have signed a petition asking for his release from jail.

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