2018 Iranian film fest highlights shorts by upcoming directors

Iranian cinema has been among the most critically acclaimed in the world in recent years. Czech audiences have been able to enjoy the cream of the country’s movies thanks to the Festival of Iranian Film, or ÍRÁN:CI, which is taking place for the seventh time in Prague. Ahead of Tuesday night’s opening ceremony I spoke to festival founder Kaveh Daneshmand, who explained the theme of the latest edition: Don’t be scared.

“It’s about bringing films from filmmakers who didn’t hesitate to go beyond what are considered to be the boundaries of commercial cinema.

“They are experimenting, but in a way that still attracts the audience, in a very heart-felt way.

“I would say that the best representative of what we are doing in the seventh edition is the collection of short films we are bringing from the youngest artists in Iranian cinema.

“They really try to cross all borders, they cross all the boundaries that are considered to be the safe boundaries in Iranian cinema.

“They’re trying to explore territories that have not been explored in Iranian cinema before.”

What will be your opening film on Tuesday night?

“Actually, we made a decision to show four of those short films.

“Obviously our feature film competition is, in my opinion, very good. Our documentary section is really good.

“We also have side events such as Pioneers, which also features strong titles of Iranian cinema.

Asghar Farhadi, photo: archive of Festival of Iranian FilmAsghar Farhadi, photo: archive of Festival of Iranian Film “But our opening will be a sort of unorthodox one by showing four short films by Iranian short filmmakers which have been widely successful around the world.

“I hope that once the audience sees those short films they realise why we chose them.”

This year it’s your seventh edition of the festival. Over the years have you sensed that Czech audiences now know more about Iranian cinema than they did before?

“I would say that from our very first edition the Czech audience was quite familiar with Iranian cinema.

“Since then I think we have brought about 150 or 160 titles from Iranian cinema to Prague, Brno and Bratislava, and I hope we have played a small roll in expanding that knowledge.”

Is this a kind of golden time for Iranian cinema? For example, the director Asghar Farhadi has won two Oscars in the last five or six years.

“Yes, it is, I think, a very, very interesting time in Iranian cinema.

“Because it’s not only him [Farhadi] – he’s obviously the most successful living Iranian director – but there are also other quite substantial Iranian directors inside and outside Iran who are very successful at festivals such as the Berlinale, Venice, Rotterdam, San Sebastian and Toronto.

Asghar Farhadi - 'About Elly', photo: archive of Festival of Iranian FilmAsghar Farhadi - 'About Elly', photo: archive of Festival of Iranian Film “So I think it’s a very special time for Iranian cinema in terms of the number of good filmmakers that are coming out.”

I know many filmmakers in Iran face restrictions. Perhaps this is an ignorant question, but are most of the guests you have coming to the festival based in Iran? Or are they based outside the country?

“This is the first year that so many guests are coming to the festival.

“Most of them are coming from Iran. They live in Iran, they’re based in Iran, they work in Iran.

“Obviously when they want to travel to Europe they have to go through the process of a visa application and paperwork.

“But yes, they are based in Iran and they are working quite well and making films almost every year.

“And they seem to be happy to continue that way.”