You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cannes: Why Asghar Farhadi’s ‘The Salesman’ Signals a Post Nuclear Deal Cinematic Resurgence in Iran  

Asghar Farhadi’s return to Cannes with his double prize-winning “The Salesman” comes after the Iranian auteur’s Paris-set “The Past” vied for a Palme d’Or in 2013. It also marks his somewhat unexpected return to shooting in Iran after “A Separation.”

“The Salesman” stood out as this year’s only competition film to score two nods, one for actor Shaab Hosseini and the best screenplay prize for Farhadi.

Following “A Separation,” which in 2012 became the first Iranian film to win an Oscar, Farhadi had seemingly embarked on a path similar to his revered compatriot Abbas Kiarostami, whose last two films, “Certified Copy” (2010) and “Like Someone in Love” (2012), were shot respectively in Tuscany and Japan.

Though neither director would publicly admit it, shooting outside Iran was certainly less problematic, and the lure of A-list international movie stars, photogenic locations, and bigger budgets, had pull.

Speaking after the Cannes premiere of “The Salesman,” Farhadi (pictured) explained that after it was announced last year that he would segue from “The Past” to shooting a film in Spain, he got “nostalgic” and changed plans.

“I wanted to work in my country, I wanted to go back home,” he said. “Despite all the existing difficulties, I get great pleasure and I am most satisfied from shooting films in my country,” he added.

Those difficulties continue to include the risk of incarceration and censorship.

As the Cannes fest got started, dozens of film organisations, including the Federation of European Film Directors, launched an appeal to Iran’s government to grant clemency to Iranian filmmaker Keywan Karimi, sentenced last year to six years in jail and 223 lashes for his film “Writing on the City,” about political graffiti spanning the period from the 1979 Islamic Revolution through Iran’s contested 2009 election. Though sentenced, Karimi remains free pending appeal.

Similarly Jafar Panahi, whose surreptitiously shot “Taxi” won the Berlin Golden Bear last year, is still formally banned from filmmaking and to all effects from travelling, and “Taxi” remains unreleased in Iran.

Yet it’s a fact that, driven by an improving economy, Iranian film production is suddenly experiencing a burst, as ticket sales rise and multiplexes mushroom.

This year’s Cannes Marche Du Film world film market trends report notes that “the lifting of economic sanctions by the international community is expected to have a positive effect on attendance and production” in Iran. While the nuclear agreement is just one of the factors behind the accelerating Iranian economy, that effect is already been felt.

“This is an outstanding year for Iranian cinema” enthuses Mohammad Atebbai, head of Tehran-based sales company Iranian Independents.

Atebbai, who tracks local productions, says there are now 247 feature films in various stages of production in Iran, as of mid-April, 130 of which already completed. That’s a major increase compared with Iran’s official 2015 film production output, which was 84 films according to the Farabi Film Foundation, Iran’s official export body. Atebbai tallies last year’s output at 108 films. Both provided figures for the Cannes market report.

Meanwhile, box office is soaring.

During the Iranian New Year holidays – the key March 17 to April 1 period – box office reached a record-breaking 222 billion Rials ($7.3 million), according to Atebbai and other sources. Iranian media boasted that this year’s exceptional New Year haul  amounts to more than the county’s total annual box office intake two years ago.

By Atebbai’s count, Iran will be adding 80 screens to its measly current 384 digital screen count by the end of 2016 thanks to a multiplex boom that sees more than one hundred new plexes under construction across the country. Iran’s population is more than 78 million, at least half of which aged under 35, which makes it the last major territory still untapped by the Hollywood majors. Not surprisingly, the national share of the local box office is 92 percent.

Though Iran is back on their radar, don’t expect the studios to be coming in anytime soon. Still, changes are underway in the country that Jim Jarmusch in Cannes called “one of the gardens of cinema on our planet.” It will be interesting to see what blossoms.


More Film

  • Bruno GanzSwiss Film Award in Geneva,

    Bruno Ganz, 'Downfall' and 'Wings of Desire' Star, Dies at 77

    Bruno Ganz, best known for dramatizing Adolf Hitler’s final days in “Downfall,” has died. The Swiss actor was 77 years old. The cause was reportedly colon cancer. In addition to delivering one of the definitive cinematic portrayals of the Nazi leader, Ganz played an angel who gives up immortality to experience earthly pleasures in Wim [...]

  • Bruno GanzSwiss Film Award in Geneva,

    Bruno Ganz, Star of 'Downfall' and 'Wings of Desire,' Dies at 77

    Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor whose portrayal of Adolf Hitler in 2004’s “Downfall” made him an international star, has died. He was 77. Ganz died at home in Zurich on Friday, his management told various media outlets. Ganz was a familiar figure in German-language cinema, with a career spanning nearly 60 years. In addition to [...]

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Cinematographers Praise Academy Reversal: 'We Thank You for Your Show of Respect'

    Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions. “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” [...]

  • Peter Parker and Miles Morales in

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse' Colored Outside the Lines

    The well-worn superhero genre and one of its best-known icons are unlikely vehicles for creating a visually fresh animated feature. But Sony Pictures Animation’s work on the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” shows throwing out the rule book and letting everyone play in the creative sandbox can pay off big. “I think we [...]

  • Denis Villeneuve

    Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Gets November 2020 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has scheduled Legendary’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” for a Nov. 20, 2020, release in 3D and Imax. “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in negotiations to join the “Dune” reboot with Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya. Production is expected to launch in the spring [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content