UCLA fest spotlights Iranian pix

Fest already causing a stir

Formed to foster understanding between Iran and the U.S., the Noor Iranian Film Festival has managed to annoy one entity already: Iran’s culture ministry has told filmmakers that if they submit pics to the event, they’ll lose their license to work in the country.

But that’s not deterring founder and director Siamak Ghahremani. The fest, whose fourth edition took place Aug. 5-7 at UCLA’s James Bridges Theater, unspooled several shorts and features. Centerpiece was Sundance audience award winner “Circumstance” from Maryam Keshavarz. Other pics include “American Coup,” “Chasing Che,” “Letters to the President,” “Kick in Iran” and “1994.”

Ghahremani’s aim in starting the sprocket opera in 2009 was to counter Iran’s negative image among Americans. Event skipped last year out of respect for the many who were killed in Iran during the turmoil that followed that country’s elections.

Ghahremani cited the dearth of Iranian festivals outside Iran when he started his event. And while filmmakers such as Jafar Panahi and the Makhmalbafs are well known at Cannes and New York, their work was little seen in L.A.

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Ghahremani hopes to change that with his festival, which include films touching on issues such as poverty, oppression and gay life. In the first few years, he received plenty of submissions from Iran and Iranians around the world.

However, when Iranian authorities threatened sanctions against participants, it had an adverse effect, he says, even though the disapproval made his event better known in thein the expat community.

“But on the plus side, two other Iranian film festivals came up in New York and the U.K.,” adds Ghahremani.

The Noor fest was set to give Bob Yari a lifetime achievement award on Aug. 7.

The jury includes Kami Asgar, Corey Feldman, Frances Fisher, Bai Ling and Max Martini. Ghahremani says he whittles down the submissions and then lets the jury decide which pics to screen.

“I’m the only one who knows the winners beforehand,” he adds. “I’m the PriceWaterhouse security.”

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