Sunday 4 March 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 2 March 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.