Monday, June 18, 2018

Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXII: All the films or anything that can be projected onto a screen

Il Cinema Ritrovato kicks off on June 23. Here is (a nearly complete) list of the 500 titles to be shown during the 8-day feast, organised in both chronological and alphabetical orders.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Underline#3: The English Edition

This issue of Underline, focusing on Iranian female artists of the past half-century, could be our most urgent work to date. There is no exaggeration in the cover title (picture above): the positive role of women in shaping the history of modern Iran has been staggering. While Underline’s inclination towards the arts necessarily leaves out of the picture the significant contributions made by women in the fields of education, science, politics and the economy, I am confident that this fact will be confirmed to anybody reading the articles featured here.

In the main, our celebration of women’s creativity favours the interview format. We have had the honour and pleasure of speaking with some of the most remarkable Iranian artists, who have narrated their life histories and revealed key ideas behind some of their finest work for our readers. You can find more interviews on our website, to complement the theme of this issue.

Before we get to the interviews, we feature eight articles on the careers of numerous artists. The approach taken by our contributors is varied, with new canons of major figures in theatre and film as well as in-depth criticism of developments in the work of individual artists, or in a particular medium. The seven interviews that follow expand on some of the ideas in those articles, and occasionally contradict the readings offered.

Underline#3: The Farsi Edition

این شماره شاید ضروری‌ترین شمارۀ دورۀ جدید آندرلاین باشد. در پروندۀ ویژۀ این شماره تمرکز بر زنان هنرآفرین در ایران نیم قرن گذشته است. در عنوان روی
جلد هیچ اغراقی در کار نیست: نقش زنان در ایران دورۀ مدرن خیره‌کننده بوده و تازه به خاطر گرایش ویژۀ ما به هنر، نقش زنان در آموزش، علم، صنعت، سیاست و تجارت در نظر گرفته نشده است.
این شماره هم‌چنین تا حد زیادی متکی بر شنیدن صدای خود زنان هنرمند است و مصاحبه، فرم غالب متون پیش روی شما خواهد بود. این فرصت و افتخار را داشته‌ایم تا با چند نسل از زنان هنرمند در حوزه‌های مختلف به گفت‌وگو بنشینیم. در وبسایت ما گفت‌وگوهای بیشتری در تکمیل موضوع این شماره پیدا خواهید کرد.
هشت مقاله اول دیدگاه‌های کلی یا جزیی نویسندگانش از حضور و تأثیر زنان فعال در معماری، سینما، تئاتر و هنرهای تجسمی هستند. هفت متنی که در پی آن می‌آیند، مصاحبه‌هایی در تکمیل یا گسترش و چه بسا در تعارض با تئوری‌های بخش اول است. در این بخش از اولین رهبر ارکستر زن در ایران تا چند نفر از شناخته شده‌ترین نویسندگان، فیلمسازان و هنرمندان تجسمی با آندرلاین گفت‌وگو کرده‌اند. مضمون این شماره به کنار، بیشتر همکاران و نویسندگان و مترجمانی که در تهیه این شماره با ما کار کرده‌اند زنان هستند و من بسیار از دقت نظر و حرفه‌ای‌گری آن‌ها بهره برده‌ام.

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Hollywooder in the Land of Persia: Remembering Esmail Koushan (by Nima Hassani-Nasab)

Originally written by my friend Nima Hassani-Nasab for Underline -- the magazine I edit for the British Council -- I'm reposting it here with the intention of adding more images and posters of the notoriously prolific filmmaker Esmail Koushan. - EK

Was Esmail Koushan ‘the father of Iranian cinema’? Did he father a monstrosity? Several decades after the career of this noted figure ended, these questions still have no clear answer.

History accords to Dr Koushan an indisputably important role in the development of the Iranian film industry. An appreciation of this fact, and of Koushan’s considerable efforts as pioneer and influence within the industry, has meant that his renown has endured regardless of the quality and value of his works from an aesthetic perspective. He deserves credit for his stubborn and combative efforts to ensure the development of a professional production process in every area of the industry; from this point of view, Koushan certainly has the right to be considered the father of Iranian cinema.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXII: The Cinema of John M Stahl

Programme curated by Ehsan Khoshbakht

Concealed identities, troubled yet enduring love affairs, tragic destinies assuaged by altruism and sacrifice... The films of John M Stahl treat familiar subjects and themes with a striking sense of fluency and directness. Favouring a certain bareness and modernity in both feeling and style, Stahl's work has proved to have a lasting emotional power despite earlier critical neglect.

In collaboration with The Pordenone Silent Film Festival, Il Cinema Ritrovato revisits the work of this master of melodrama, and one of American cinema's unsung auteurs. The silent The Woman Under Oath (1919) will be screened in Bologna as a warm-up to a larger retrospective in Pordenone, which will include the majority of Stahl's surviving silents (1917-27). Our overview of Stahl's career during the sound years, noted for its 'audacity' by critic Andrew Sarris, covers both his features made for Universal Pictures, as well as lesser known but equally captivating films made for 20th Century Fox. In both cases one discovers many shades in the work of a single artist, from bright and comic to dark and fatalistic.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Interview with Masoud Kimiai

Originally published in 2014 on Keyframe in conjunction with Edinburgh International Film Festival's retrospective on Iranian New Wave. -- EK

Masoud Kimiai (born 1941)

In his home country, he is the most popular filmmaker of his generation. Elsewhere, his ultra-masculine dramas of camaraderie, revenge and male bonds are rarely seen, and if seen, hardly appreciated. He's never been an international film festival darling.

He contributed to the birth if a "different cinema" in Iran by making the rape/revenge thriller Qeysar (1969). His other key film, The Deer (1976), keeps appearing triumphantly in Iranian polls, often winning the title of "the best film in the history of Iranian cinema."

Kimiai makes no bone about his love for classical Hollywood and genre cinema. He grew up going to Tehran's second run cinemas which were mostly playing westerns and crime films. A decade later and before tuning director, he assisted a visiting Hollywood pro, Jean Negulesco, during the shoot of a co-production (The Invincible Six). In a sense, Kiami's cinema since the 1960s has been a persistent and relentless reinterpretation of the American films he has loved in his youth and trying to marry that, sometimes with stunning results, to a politically-conscious cinema.

He answered my questions on a piece of paper. He loves real, physical things: papers, wrist watches, and hats. The answers are not necessarily responding to the questions but then they might be even more interesting.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Night It Rained (Kamran Shirdel, 1967)

From my Iranian New Wave programme notes, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2015. The world premiere of the restored version (2K). -- EK

PS: Playing in London on March 16, 2018. [+]

Iran, 1967 Regia: Kamran Shirdel
T. int.: The Night It Rained or the Epic of the Gorgan Village Boy. Scen.: Esmaeel Noori Ala, Kamran Shirdel. F.: Naghi Maasoumi. M.: Fatemeh Dorostian. Int.: Nosratollah Karimi (narrator/interviewer). Prod.: The Ministry of Culture.

Shirdel and cameraman Naghi Maasoumi on the set
This satirical documentary film offers a crash course in 1960s Iran. A newspaper story of a heroic village boy who prevented a train disaster appears and spreads quickly. The incident, reported on and challenged by local officials and journalists, is soon doubted and leads ultimately to confusion, with nobody knowing exactly who has saved whom.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Interview with Kamran Shirdel

Kamran Shirdel (right) on the set of The Night It Rained

Kamran Shirdel (born 1939)

One of the giants of Iranian modern cinema, Shirdel is mostly remembered for his clandestine documentaries about poverty and injustice as well as his Rashomonesque The Night It Rained (1967) which became an instrumental film in the birth of New Wave. It’s been hardly noted that he was also responsible for remaking À bout de souffle under the title The Morning of the Fourth Day (1972).

Shirdel today

  • How conscious were you about the New Wave while making your “new” film?

In 1965, after finishing my film school in Rome (Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia), I returned back home mostly for a family visit when I encountered the unbelievable and ridiculous socio-economico-political situation in Iran. No Iranian school of filmmaking existed and there were very few [educated] film directors – mostly graduated from foreign film schools trying to do their best at the only place existing for documentary filmmaking in Iran which was The Ministry of Culture and Art. And the filmmakers’ job was to satisfy The Ministry with their commissioned orders. Under these circumstances I had the rare chance to be called – quite accidentally - to make a series of so called propaganda films for the Iranian Women Organization (headed by Ashraf, the twin sister of the Shah!) The subject of the films opened the tightly closed doors of hidden worlds of, respectively, Women’s Prison and Tehran’s red light district (in Farsi, Shahre No) which I showed in Women's Quarter, as well as other poor slums of southern Tehran. I got hold of this rare chance and benefitted from this unexpected situation by relying on my zero experience in the field of documentary filmmaking which was balanced by my love to approach the socio-political problems. I directed them one after another and in a very short time.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Underline#2, The English Edition

Underline's second issue is about journeys, real and imagined. As with Issue#1, several of the stories reveal more of the rich cultural interactions between the UK and Iran historically. Such interactions are often achieved by that old method of learning: hitting the road.

The chosen theme for this issue also touches on the conditions of the magazine's production. Many of the wonderful team who have made this issue happen are travellers; visitors or residents in another country, sharing their observations both in close-up and long shot.

The stories in close-up are focused on two British poets (Basil Bunting and Dylan Thomas) and an American art collector (Abby Weed Grey), each of whom were drawn fortuitously to Iran. Thomas’s journey remains a personal favourite: he sees both heaven and hell, leaving the country bruised, enlightened, shocked and awakened. No romanticism of ‘Persia’ here.

Filmmaker and writer Mark Cousins, who drove his campervan through Iran shortly after 9/11, provides us with one long shot. Some three decades before he set out on his journey, other campervans had crossed the country for a different reason: fulfilling the hippy dream of reaching those eastern destinations associated with self-discovery – and good hash. Rory MacLean has written a best-seller on the subject, Magic Bus, about which we've interviewed him.

The journeys also continue in our In Review pages where the recent, auspicious trip made by British sculptor Tony Cragg to exhibit his work in Tehran has given one of our contributors the opportunity for a first-hand encounter. Travelling in the opposite direction, the works of Iranian photographer Kaveh Golestan have reached Tate Modern, prompting another fascinating review.

Underline#2, The Persian Edition

دومین شمارۀ آندرلاین دربارۀ «سفر» است، چه به شکل عینی‌اش و چه سفرهای ذهنی و مجازی. در امتداد مضمونِ شمارۀ اول، بعضی از این سفرها عمق، قدمت و تناقض‌های رابطۀ ایران و بریتانیا در یک قرن گذشته را برملا می‌کنند. اما مضمون سفر انعکاسی از وضعیت تعداد زیادی از نویسندگان این شماره هم هست که بین دو کشور در حرکت‌اند و جایی جز مبداء اصلی‌شان را برای سکونت انتخاب کرده‌اند. هر کدام از این نویسندگان، داستان‌هایی در کلوزآپ و لانگ‌شات به این شماره داده‌اند.
در کلوزآپ، داستان سفر دو شاعر بریتانیایی (بازیل بانتینگ و دیلن تاماس) و یک مجموعه‌دار آثار هنری از آمریکا (ابی وید گری) را داریم که بدون برنامه‌ریزی قبلی خودشان را در ایران می‌یابند. از بین آنها سفر تاماس طنینی گزنده دارد که در آن شاعر ولشی هم بهشت را در ایران می‌یابد و هم دوزخ را. وقتی در پایان سفر به بریتانیا برمی‌گردد، ذهنش کبود، بیدار و روشن است. کلیشه‌‌های «پرشیا»، سرزمینِ گل و بلبل در داستان سفر او جایی ندارد.
یکی از داستان‌های در لانگ‌شات این شماره را مارک کازینز، فیلم‌ساز و نویسندۀ اهل ایرلند شمالی، روایت کرده که درست بعد از یازده سپتامبر با یک فولکس واگن در ایران سفر کرد. سهچهار دهه پیش از او، همین مسیر را فولکس واگن‌های دیگری مملو از هیپی‌ها، به نیت متفاوت رسیدن به آرامش (و مواد مخدر ارزان و فراوان) در شرق، طی کرده بودند که موضوع کتاب پرفروش اتوبوس جادویی است. در این شماره با مؤلف این کتاب، روری مک‌لین، گفتگو کرده‌ایم.
سفرها در بخش گزارش و نقد ادامه پیدا می‌کنند. سفر اخیر تُنی کرگ و آثارش به موزه هنرهای معاصر تهران موضوع یک مقاله است و در سوی مخالف جاده، سفر آثار عکاسی کاوه گلستان به موزه تیت مدرن در لندن موضوع مقاله‌ای دیگر.
با دشواری‌های موجود برای سفر بین دو کشور که می‌تواند حتی قهرمان هومر، اودیسیوس، را از صرافت سفر بیندازد، امیدوارم شمارۀ دوم آندرلاین همان کاری را بکند که کتاب‌ها و فیلمهای به‌دردبه‌خور می‌کنند: شما را به جایی ببرند که قبلاً در آن نبوده‌اید.