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
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?