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Iranian movies attract greater international attention

Dearest Ghazal,
Before the 2012 Oscar will be awarded on February 26th to the different categories of cinematography, I would like to say something about the state of the Iranian Cinema. This year, the highly acclaimed masterpiece "Nader and Simin - A separation" by the prominent Iranian film-maker Asghar Farhadi is nominated as the best non-english movie and for the best script.

"Nader and Simin" was not the only Iranian film which made it to the western screens during the last years. We were mesmerized by Ali Samadi Ahadis "Green Wave" and "Salami Aleikum", by Shirin Neshats "Zanan-e bedun-e mardan (Woman without Men)" and by the magic realism of Marjam Satrapis "Persepolis" and "Chicken with Plums".
Movies by Iranian directors who have the chance to work abroad (like Marjan Satrapi or Ali Samadi Ahadi) are extraordinary masterpieces, carrying a very unique handwriting of their directors. And they breath the spirit of freedom and of unlimited creativity. But because they are produced in the west, they attract much less media attention. The media and critics in the west too often judge a movie more by the circumstances under which it has been produced, and therefore grant a movie that has been produced inside the country an extra bonus for "braveness". And for this extra bonus there seem to be a consensus that Iranian movies which are a domestic production (like those by Jafar Panahi, Abbas Kiarostami, Asghar Fahadi or Mohammad Rasoulof) might lack the free-spirit and the very personal and experimental techniques and tough expressions, which are characteristic for movies like "Green Wave" or "Salami Alaikum" by Ali Samadi Ahadi, "Woman without Men" by Shirin Neshat or "Chicken with Plum" by Marijam Satrapi. How is it possible, that although anything else than happy ending soft-stories, these four movies leave the audience with a feeling of hope, with the confidence that even the biggest tragedy will find a solution, or at least a meaning ? Is it because each tragedy will loose its horror if it can be openly narrated, if a movie-director can show and say everything he/she wants to say, using the words and pictures he/she feels are appropriate in this very moment ? This way even the saddest and tragic stories like in "Green Wave" or in "Chicken with Plum" can be presented with the greatest of ease. Here, the movie will be a relieve for the director, for the actors and finally for the audience. Because the emotionally strong stories were transformed into movies with all possible and all neccessary cinematografic elements, the audience feels a strong satisfaction and happiness.
In contrast, the movies produced at home in Iran (like "Darbareye Elly" or "Nader and Simin - A divorce" by Fahadi or "Offside" by Jafar Panahi) can not make us forget that censorship is the dominating condition under which artists have to live and work. Each single word in a dialogue, every character, every scenery has to be considered under the threat of censoreship. The so-called "scissors in your own head" might help the director to finally produce a movie that passes the ideological watch-dogs of the regime, and therefore wont suffer too much from beeing "trimmed" by some uneducated beaurocrats. But the movie itself, even if it fullfills the highest standard of movie-arts and creativity, innovation and honesty, can not make us forget that it was produced under conditions of unfreedom. You still can smell the sweat of the film-makers from the fear of loosing the battle against the beaurocrats, you can feel the many frustrating moments they had when another brilliant idea had to be put aside, for the sake to get the whole project through the machinery. One feels that they had to carefully select their words and their pictures, and this leaves a feeling in the audience that not everything what should have been said and shown in the movie became real.
I still advocate the Oscar beeing awarded to Asghar Fahadi, I think the battle he fought against the dump and dogmatic Iranian censoreship and the excellent team work he set up with great artists such as Sareh Bayat, Leila Hatami, Peyman Hatami and many others should be honoured. I think that none of the directors that left Iran would have had enough mental energy to fight through all these odds as Fahadi did, always beeing aware of the risk to end up in prison or beeing sentenced with a ban to work, as his colleague Jafar Panahi has experienced it. For sure, neither Ali Samadi Ahadi, nor Marijam Satrapi or Shirin Neshat would have had the stand and the courage (and maybe other qualities as well) to go through all the husles and restrictions to produce their movies at home in Iran - but maybe under conditions of relative freedom they are the more innovative and creative art-directors. A case where an Iranian film-maker probably tried to get "the best of both worlds" was Bahman Gobadis "Kasi az gorbehaye irani khabar nadareh (No one knows about persian cats)" According to IMBD, ".. during filming, Ghobadi and his actors were arrested twice but released after giving presents to the authorities and lying about the real subject of the film." This way Bahman Gobadi found a half legal, half underground style to get a movie approved by the Iranian authorities, although it was full of satyrical episodes and signs showing that a way-out of the misery requires the abolution of the dogmatic islamic laws of the mullahs regime. But this film must be considered a singular event.

In general, Iranian movies must be judged either by their political braveness (if they are produced inside Iran) or by the high cinematographic standard (when they are produced abroad). At the current political situation and the degree of oppression of intellectuals and arts-people under the islamic regime I think it is legitimate to honour with the Oscar award the movies who are the result of a brave political fight. But in history books of Iranian movie arts, I believe, the films of the exiled directors Ali Samadi Ahadi, Marjam Satrapi or Shirin Neshat might be considered more innovative and of longer-lasting value.


Persian Drag Queens

Dear Ghazal, In general I don't like to send or forward uncommented videos or photographs. But the following one is just so funny, I think any additional words would just spoil it. Persian Drag Queens Enjoy, Take Care, Michael PS: the video has recently be blocked by youtube or classified as "privat". Thats too bad, cause it was nice, funny, and not offencive at all ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hi Michael,
Drag Queens are cult. Makes me smile. I love how they perform. Do you also think that transvestites very often look more attractive then real woman ? Shava, however complained about the jokes they did in the video about big noses ! She insisted that big noses are beautiful, that they are precious, that they give character and are a sign of  strong personality. But now big noses become an endangered species in Iran. Because its the easiest and most profitable operation for the plastic surgeons. Shava said people who have their big nose reduced should better be send  to a neurosurgeon to get a Brain bypass operation. I hope everything is fine  with you, Take Care /ghazal --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ghazal my dear, First of all, I have to say how much I agree with Shavas opinion regarding big noses.It always makes me very sad to hear that people can be ashamed of their sharp noses. The attempt to "correct" it to resemble japanese manga figures is a regrettable and irreversible damage to the personality. Large, sharp noses were always seen as a reflection of a strong character. Therefore it does not come as a surprise they are so common among the Iranians.
In many mythologies the nose was even considered to be the breathing organ of the human soul. Therefor invading troops in ancient times used to break off the noses off statues that portrayed the local gods and goddesses. They thought that this way they can destroy their power.  What comes as a relief: a corrected nose can not be inherited to the next generation. Size of the nose is largely genetically determined (i.e. by fixed DNA variations that are differently distributed among different ethnic groups). Therefore, the iranian people, even if they have their large noses reduced by plastic surgery,  will transmit their original size as a genetic treasure to the next generations. Tell Shava that hope is in sight. The attempt to improve its own chances on the hunt for a partner by "correcting" ones nose has even a long-term effect that causes even more large noses in Iran. It is simply by increasing the chance of woman with (genetically large/surgically small) noses to find one or more partner to have children with. Therefor the natural selection for genetically small noses is fooled, since the eyes cannot see whats hidden in the genes. Befor plastic surgery, partnership preference for small noses would have really caused continious loss of the large-nose-genes with the dangerous consequence of (as Shava called it) large noses becoming an endangered species. With the advent of plastic surgery, however, sexual selection against large noses does not work any more. Therefor, large noses are not lost, but rather hidden in our genes for future generations. Take Care, my Dear  (and take care of your beautiful nose. If any moron makes silly comments about it, print out this post and stick it him on his forehead !!!)