Art and Experience: In an exclusive interview with MNA, Iran’s Head of Cinema Organization Hojatollah Ayoubi highlighted the role and impact of Iranian cinema, saying it is an indispensable part of the global cinematic trend.
The 34th Fajr International Film Festival is currently underway at Charous Cineplex in the central part of Tehran. On this occasion, Mehr News Agency conducted an exclusive interview with Iran’s Head of Cinema Organization Hojatollah Ayoubi and asked his opinion about the current standing of Iranian cinema and its impact on shaping the global cinematic trend.
How do you describe the current standing of Iranian cinema on the global scene? How do you think it is perceived globally and how much impact does it have on shaping the cinematic trend?
I think the world cinema would suffer a great loss without Iranian cinema. Iranian cinema is indispensable, since it offers a quite different view of the things and has a different voice; despite all the restrictions and shortcomings it suffers, Iranian cinema has found a great place in the world cinema. Perhaps it is why no international film festival would feel complete without including a film from Iran in their screening programs. It has an effect on the world which parallels the impact of its monumental poetry and literature on world literature. The literature of the world seems lacking an important part without Iran’s brilliant literature. This is true of Iranian cinema as well.
Do you think cinema has a role in dissolving barriers of language and culture?
Definitely it does. Cinema is the shrill voice of nations in a time when picture has dominated over other modes of communication. We live in a world where people have been increasingly suspicious of things and would only believe things shown to them in pictures. They have been relying on their visual senses to communicate with their outside world. Cinema is a language of pictures and images and has now removed the geographical and political borders to connect peoples of different nations through its emotional content. It has helped far-flung communities to come to know people for example in New York City or a remote village in western Iran. Cinema has given birth to a mode of mutual understanding.
And how do you assess the role and impact of international film festivals in introducing a nation’s culture, especially Iran’s, to an audience that knows little or is generally misinformed about it?
During past 3 or 4 decades, huge amount of money had been invested in efforts to provide the world an image of Iran that is drastically different to its reality, while our cinema opened a window to the reality which was a clear and true image of the country. In the difficult years of the past, Iran had remained a question mark, a complete mystery, for [foreign] audience. Iran’ cinema repaired this image and removed the question mark at least to some extent.
In recent years, certain Iranian movies such as Abbas Rafei’s ‘Oblivion Season’ or Hadi Mohaghegh’s ‘Mamiro’ have been very successful in international film festivals. What components do you think an Iranian movie should have in order to increase its chances in winning the accolade in international film festivals?
Iran’s cinema has been actively engaged in festivals overseas: 20-50 international awards and more than 1,000 cases of participation annually; such figures propelled Iran to an enviable place in terms of participation in world film festivals. However, what has been seen as lacking, is having a more prominent presence in world film markets. To secure access to global arena, I believe, we have a long way to go. We should improve our distribution sector; we should help an atmosphere dominate by which our films would find an easy path to world markets, almost a short-cut.
To what genres do you think Iranian audiences react favorably? And have the screening programs of the 34th FIFF been chosen with their tastes in mind?
To be honest, I have invested trust upon Mr. Mirkarimi’s artistic tastes who has actually watched the films. I am only aware of the general facts about the screening programs and based on that, I think the arrangement and selection of the movies has sought to present cinema of a specific part of regions, especially Asia and generally the Far East to its audiences.
And how would you describe the cinematic taste of Iranian audience?
Iranian audience have a taste for socially strong and moving films of Iranian cinema – realistic drama if you will, and the titles produced of this genre in recent past all seem to have caught the eye of the cinema goers. Nevertheless, high-quality and well-made comedies also have their own audience among the population of cinema-goers.
In what ways do you think the 34th FIFF is different from its previous editions, from a technical, political or social standpoint?
It is natural for a festival to improve itself in the next edition. New ideas are introduced, and the projects that have started in the previous years, get a chance to be completed in the next edition. In terms of structural adjustments, we have had positive changes in bringing in the Fans Club, Darolfunun (a talent campus), and we also extended training workshops. I hope these changes will contribute to the overall evolution of the festival.
Hojatollah Ayoubi, born 1963, is the current head of Iran’s Cinema Organization, as well as the President of ECO Cultural Institute in Tehran since 2009. He has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Lyon 2 in France. He had also held the position of Iran’s cultural attaché in Paris.