Iran Seeking Attract More International Movies

Announcement comes just as Iran and the U.S. agree on framework for nuclear deal

Iran’s top film event, the Fajr International Film Festival, is being reconfigured in an attempt to bring more international movies and film industry executives into the country.

Just as Iran and the U.S. announced the framework of a nuclear agreement that could lead to lifting sanctions, the government-run Cinema Organization of Iran issued two press releases announcing that for the first time the Fajr fest will host a separate new international event in Tehran.

Fajr’s new international offshoot will feature films from around the globe, including the U.S., screening alongside Iranian titles, plus master classes to be held by Hong Kong action-movie master Stanley Tong (“Rumble in the Bronx”); Polish auteur Krzysztof Zanussi (“Life as a Sexually Transmitted Disease”); Film Auckland chairman Pete Rive, who is an expert on doing co-productions with China; and Gallic effects wizard Bertrand Levallois, among others.

The new Iranian event will include a spotlight on the cinema of Francesco Rosi, the Italian director known for socially engaged investigative dramas who died earlier this year.

“In previous years national and international sections of FIFF were held simultaneously, and it made everyone overlook the international section,” actor Shahab Hosseini, who stars in 2012 Foreign Language Oscar winner “A Separation,” was quoted as lamenting. “In others words it can be said that the international section of the festival was in a way oppressed,” Hosseini added in the statement.

The Fajr fest, now in its 33rd edition, has been split into two events. The “national section” was held in February. The upcoming “international section” will run April 24-May 2 in Tehran’s state-of-the-art Mellat Cinema Complex. The Fajr fest was previously held in Tehran’s Milad Tower conference center.

Another change is the event is no longer run by the Farabi Cinema Foundation, which reps Iranian cinema at festivals around the world, and has been downsized. The Fajr fest is now being managed by the Cinema Organization of Iran, headed by deputy culture minister Hojatollah Ayoubi.

Interestingly, the criteria for inclusion in the two competitions — one from Asia, the other from the rest of the world — are “films with themes such as justice, peace, Islamic Awakening, anti-violence and anti-radicalism, ethical and religious values, transcendental lifestyles, anti-oppression, human and moral virtues, importance of family, cultural diversity and humanitarianism, etc,” said a press release. The lineup has not yet been announced.

The upcoming reconfigured Fajr event will also comprise a market, which is not a novelty.

Responding to encouraging signals from moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (pictured) toward Iran’s film community, some 240 foreign attendees, comprising buyers, sellers, fest programmers and journos, made the trek to Fajr last year.

There is, of course, room for improvement in Iran’s rapport with the global film world.

After winning the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear in February with his film “Taxi,” Iranian director Jafar Panahi asked for his country to stop censoring him.

“I’m really happy for me and for Iranian cinema,” but “no prize is worth as much as my compatriots being able to see my films,” the banned director said in a rare interview with Iranian media.

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