Iranian Film Festival: an impressive line-up

By Cris Kennedy for the Sydney Morning Hearld

 Believe it or not: A scene from I'm Not Angry.

Believe it or not: A scene from I'm Not Angry.

2014 Iranian Film Festival Australia, Canberra: October 3-5,  at Capitol Cinemas Manuka Tickets. $12 full, $20 for opening night film and party

Anne Demy-Geroe was for many years director of the Brisbane International Film Festival, a position she retired from a few years ago to establish her own film festival. Its subject is Iranian cinema – and she has been working with Iranian-Australian filmmaker Armin Miladi, as well as making regular trips to festivals in Iran to curate a program to tour Australian cinemas.

With what we imagine might be the constraints upon filmmakers in contemporary Iran, from its changing political landscape to the challenges of censorship, the films Demy-Geroe and her team have compiled are most impressive.

 Haunted: A scene from Paternal House

Haunted: A scene from Paternal House

I'm Not Angry opens the 2014 Iranian Film Festival Australia this Friday,  October 3,  at 7pm.

Directed by Reza Dormishian, this is a love story set against the 2009 political protests known as the Green Movement, the wave of political protests round 2009. The title is ironic, with the filmmaker capturing the bubbling anger of a generation who feel powerless. Navid (Navid Mohammadzadeh) has been thrown out of university for protesting, and life has been challenging since, which is taking a toll on his relationship with fiance Setareh (Baran Kosari).

Kosari is the daughter of noted Iranian filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemas,T and in addition to her acting duties, performs roles of costume designer and production designer.

The challenges of family life in the post-Global Financial Crisis world have been a recent obsession with filmmakers and Iranian cinema is no different, as Mahdi Rahmani depicts in Snow (Saturday,  October 4, 3.30pm), where a soldier returns to his family home to find a fractured family struggling to keep up an appearance of prosperity.

The program for Iranian Film Festival Australia also taps into the wealth of pre-Revolutionary cinema with Parviz Kimiavi's P for Pelican (which screens with Paternal House, Saturday,  October 4, 5.30 pm), a beautiful piece of filmmaking.

It is a nice bit of curation to show this film with Kianoush Ayari's Paternal House, a film that originally screened at Venice Film Festival in 2012 despite being banned by the Iranian government, which only recently cleared the film for screening. Avari at the time refused to make any statement about how Venice might have acquired a copy of his film.

The film is about a family home haunted by the presence of a woman who was killed by her family and buried in the cellar. Avari had worked with groups like the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and the Iranian State Police throughout the production, but they decided against its content when the film was finished. More than 200 locally-produced films have been refused a screening permit in Iran since the 1979 revolution, though some filmmakers have been able to successfully argue against their bans.

The young son of two mentally challenged parents struggles with his dawning realisation of his parents' limitations and the weight this places on his own life in The Painting Pool (Sunday, October 5, 2pm), a film that had this reviewer on the floor, a mess. Wonderful stuff.

Fish & Cat (Sunday, October 5, 4pm) won the prize for innovative content at the Venice Film Festival in 2013 for a story that would have been outrageous content in any society, so hats off to the filmmakers behind this inspired-by-a-true-story account of a restaurant that served minced human flesh for food. More than the content, though, is the impressive feat of shooting the entire film in one single take.

All films are in Farsi with English subtitles. 

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