Iran’s harried filmmakers took centre stage in Cannes as Abbas Kiarostami presented his latest work, while his colleague Jafar Panahi languished in jail. Kiarostami, who took the Palme d’Or in 1997, and whose many films are censored by the Iranian government, presented Certified Copy, about an English writer making it with an art dealer in Italy.
The film, the first that the director has shot outside Iran, is one of the 19 movies in the race for the Palme top prize to be handed out on Sunday. Jailed director Panahi had been invited to join the festival jury that will decide who wins the prestigious award.
But Panahi has been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since March 1, when he was detained reportedly for making a film about Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election.
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The jury, headed by director Tim Burton, last week joined calls for Panahi’s release and left a seat symbolically empty for him on stage at the festival’s gala opening.
Several Iranian movies have won awards at prestigious international festivals since 2005. But when hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power, moviemakers complained about increased censorship. Even under the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami, when artistes enjoyed relative liberty, many of Kiarostami’s feature films were banned from theatres.
Cannes has encouraged other independent Iranian directors in the past. It screened the animated film Persepolis, which won the jury prize in 2007, and Nobody Knows About The Persian Cats last year. Both films prompted angry condemnation from Iran’s authorities.
But Cannes — and the French government — continue to support Iran’s moviemakers. This year, French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner have urged Iran to release Panahi. Iran has not responded publicly to their calls.
Meanwhile, the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) Goa received global attention at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival. During a panel discussion on restructuring of IFFI Goa, Indian filmmakers namely Govind Nihalani, Nagesh Kukunoor, German film maker Roland Reber and president of Film Federation of India L Suresh, debated ways to garner greater global recognition for the festival.
According to I&B ministry sources, the panel felt that the Goa calendar should be shared internationally, so it can be noticed by film buffs globally and can be included along with other known international festivals like Cannes and Berlin.
Apart from this, it was felt that proper networking, greater government grant and institutional funding should be given. Apart from improving the connectivity to the festival venue, a full-equipped theatre for holding the opening and closing ceremony functions is needed.