Art and Experience: Fajr Film Festival, which is held each year in February, is considered as one of the most significant cinematic events in Iran. Although the 34th Fajr International Festival ended recently in Tehran’s Milad Tower, its international section is to be held from April 20-26.

This is the second year that the domestic and international sections of the event are held in separately. Therefore, all necessary steps were taken to hold a high-quality event.

Although last year the festival had several shortcomings, cinematic experts maintain that the next edition will be held with high quality so that in near future, the event will be the main pole for hosting film festivals in Middle East and Central Asia.

Iran Daily conducted an interview with Keyvan Kassirian, the manager of communications and informatics of the festival to learn about the details of the event and how it is different from the previous edition.

IRAN DAILY: How many countries have voiced their readiness to take part in the festival?

KEYVAN KASSIRIAN: Previously, domestic and international sections were held concurrently, thus international section was less prominent and usually the films’ cast failed to attend the event and even sometimes, they were not informed about their films’ screening in the Iranian festival.

Entry into competitive sections of major film festivals will be conducted using two methods. Sometimes, film producers and directors know the theme of the festival and thus send their films to be judged. In other cases, some groups are assigned to explore the films and invite its cast to take part in the event.

Removal of the sanctions imposed against Iran prompted many countries to voice their readiness to participate in the festival. A total of 24 countries namely Italy, France, Russia, Japan, Australia, Morocco, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Canada, the US, Greece, Georgia, Armenia, Switzerland, South Korea, Turkey, Thailand, Bangladesh, Poland, Qatar, Czech, Estonia and Croatia have voiced their readiness to attend the festival.

According to the secretariat of the festival, 15 feature films and 15 short stories in the form of documentaries and animations, 15-minute films have been selected to compete in the international section.

The secretary of the festival Reza Mirkarimi said that he would personally review all the films submitted to the festival’s secretariat. Do you believe that such selection process will not harm the standards and quality of the festival?

There are two protocols to select the films for world film festivals: Either a selection committee analyzes the films, or the secretary of the festival reviews the films by himself or with the help of a consultant group.

Films for the domestic section of Fajr Film Festival were chosen by a selection committee, but the secretary of the festival is responsible for reviewing all the films submitted for the international section. An eight-member group consisting of Iranian and foreign consultants will help Mirkarimi select the films.

Cannes Film Festival and Berlin Film Festival follow the same selection procedure.

Last year, Iran’s Culture Minister Ali Jannati announced that the festival should revolve around films which are in line with ‘Iranian identity’. What do you mean by the term and is it considered in this edition or not?

Basically, Iranian cinema is a humanitarian cinema which is based on morality and the world recognizes it with such themes.

Iranian films by Abbas Kiarostami which shone in the international arena are famous around the world for their moral and human elements.

In addition, films on the subjects of morality, peace and family are prioritized for the festival.

What have you done to identify the talents of first-time directors?

Generally, there are a few film festivals in which being the first-time film director is among the prerequisites.

Fajr International Film Festival places no limits on this and all films including those made by first-time directors can take part in the festival.

Another section titled ‘Dar ul-Funun’ has been established to identify intelligent filmmakers. 100 of the best Iranian filmmakers with at least one film in their record or those who conducted in-depth cinematic research are invited to take part in Q&A sessions to exchange ideas.

Also, best filmmakers from Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Iraq are to be invited to take part in this section.

How many foreign guests, including critics, journalists and filmmakers were invited to take part in the festival? Did you invite Iranian filmmakers who are living abroad?

Almost 200 individuals are ready to attend the festival. I cannot give any precise figure about Iranians living abroad.

How would the films be judged?

The films will be judged by a panel of Iranian and foreign jury members but each film will be judged mostly by foreign jury members.

Tell us more about the awards and the venue of the festival.

One feature film will win the gold and the rest will receive silver. The festival will be held in Charsoo Cinema Hall in Tehran.

Source: iran-daily