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Cinema is mirror of society, Iranian director at Cannes says

CANNES, France, May 14 (AFP) - Top Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf returned to Cannes Friday with his entry in competition at the movie festival, and said he hoped his work and cinema in general would help bring about changes back home.

"I think cinema can play a very great role in helping to bring about a free Iran," the award-winning director told reporters.

"It acts as a mirror of society... and when you look at a mirror, you see what's wrong and what needs changing."

Makhmalbaf, whose "Time of Love" (1990), "Salaam Cinema" (1994) and "Gabbeh" (1995) were previously shown at Cannes, has returned to the Croisette with "The Door."

The work is part of three films linked together under the title "Ghesse Haye Kish" ("Tales of Kish") and presented in competition.

The three episodes -- "The Door", Nasser Taghvai's "The Greek Boat" and Abolfazl Jalili's "The Ring" -- are all set on the island of Kish, located on the Gulf some 15 kilometers (nine miles) off the Iranian coast and known as a duty-free and tourist haven.

The island, where visitors do not need a visa, was chosen as the location for the filming, as the producers did not require a green light from the authorities and could work freely.

"When you make a movie in Iran you must first submit the scenario for approval and that was not the case in this instance," Makhmalbaf said.

"Shooting movies in Iran can sometimes be risky and fortunate," he added. "Fortunate in the sense that we don't have to think in terms of the box office and we don't need a huge budget but risky because independent films are always under threat of censorship."

"The Door," which like the other two tales of Kish is beautifully filmed and resembles a surrealistic sketch, is about a man left with only the door of his house and who roams the barren land of the island.

"My story is about an old man who sells everything except what he has on his back, yet he can't find anyone to buy it," Makhmalbaf said.

Jalili, behind the critically acclaimed "Det Means Girl", deals in his tale with a young man who arrives illegally on the island to find a job and works to raise money for his studies and to buy a piece of jewelry for his sister.

Taghvai's "The Greek Boat" is about workers on Kish who gather objects that wash up on a beach, including cardboard boxes used to build houses.

The director, best remembered for his prize-winning "Captain Khorshid" in 1987, was unable to travel to Cannes Friday because of a personal commitment.

Describing the state of Iranian cinema as a whole, Makhmalbaf said one could not compare it to Hollywood, at least not in terms of dollars.

"If Hollywood is what you would describe as cinema at its best, then Iranian cinema is the complete opposite," he said. "It is similar to an art form."


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