Sprint Long Distance

The Iranian


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Sprint Long Distance


Sehaty Foreign Exchange


August 28, 2000

Film du jour

I read with great interest Naghmeh Sohrabi's critical piece "Not THAT good". She is right to be criticizing the critical unquestioning of Iranian cinema.

I live in England and unfortunately the same applies here, if not worse. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have fallen into pointless heated arguments with Qestern intellectuals on this issue. It is as if they are forbidden to make negative comments.

The most common statement is: "I feel closer to Iranian culture having seen ..." and instead of being critical they often say "well it is hard for us to judge, it's a very different culture from ours."

Unfortunately this doesn't just end at cinema. It seems as though anything made by Iranians carries profound commentary and is artistically unchallengeable. I refer to a recent exhibition in London by the much praised artist of the moment, Shirin Neshat.

Not only is she hardly questioned by the adoring Western media, she is hailed as the portal into the soul of Iran today. By gazing at her ornamented photography and pretty video installations, the viewer is brought closer to the feelings of the Iranian women behind the veil.

Needless to say our arguments make no difference. The Western viewer will see what he/she wants to see, or told to see.

As Ms. Sohrabi rightly pointed out there are films being made in Iran today which do reflect the real Iran, with its endless complexities, instead of prostituting our beautiful countryside and illiterate village children. Which brings me to our latest delight by the director of the moment, Majid Majidi, entitled "Color of Paradise" (which incidentally has been translated from "Color of God", good PR maybe?).

This one beats them all. Majidi has definitely figured out the winning formula. In fact I interviewed him in Iran back in November just as the film was released (shown in Iran with its original title -- again good PR?). He is anything but an artist; shrewd, calculating and highly unpleasant.

The question is who is deciding what films should represent Iranian cinema in these festivals? The uncritical aspect could stem from the guilt Westerners feel toward Iran and a longing to love it again like they once did. Or maybe it's just another passing fashion phase?

Nargess Shahmanesh


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