Sharon Stone upstaged by Iran's star in a chador
By Hugh Davies in Venice
August 31, 2000
THE Venice Film Festival opened last night with the principal guests,
Sharon Stone and Clint Eastwood, almost upstaged by a young woman from
Iran. Appearing on the Lido Esplanade, Samira Makhmalbaf, at the age of
20 Teheran's youngest film director, had the paparazzi eating out of her
hands as she posed in a black chador-like garb and simple sandals. Photo here
She is a member of two juries judging entries. Alongside her were Claude
Chabrol and Milos Forman, legendary names to generations of cinema buffs.
She put her arm around Jennifer Jason Leigh, the actress, who had poured
herself into tight steel-studded leather trousers.
With the pair was the extremely svelte Chiara, actress daughter of the
late Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve. It was her dress, ordered
by clerics whose revolution wiped centuries of Persian history from the
map, together with the articulate way she talked of her dealings with the
censors of Teheran, that resulted in Makhmalbaf quietly stealing the show.
While there was madness on the seafront when Stone arrived to hand a
prize for lifetime achievement to Eastwood, Makhmalbaf's quiet dignity
set the tone for what looks like Venice's most intriguing movie gathering.
As Glasgow's blunt-spoken Trainspotting star, Peter Mullan, raved about
her to a media gathering, Makhmalbaf stood in a corridor, away from the
hubbub, to speak.
Born in Teheran - "one year after the revolution" - she is
the daughter of the director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. When she was 17 he asked
for her help in making his breakthrough film The Silence. At 18, she directed
a movie of her own, The Apple. She has made a second film, Takhte Siah,
a story of teachers carrying blackboards on their backs between villages
in search of students.
Censorship on "ideas" still firmly existed, said Makhmalbaf.
"But it is getting better. My movies can be shown - if they are not
censored," she added. "At the beginning, there was a much different
way of censoring films. For example, they would see a film six or seven
times before deciding it could be shown. Now, it is just one time, after
you make your movie. At least you can do the filming. Then the government
As a new voice in the entertainment industry, Makhmalbaf's air of calm,
amid festival chaos, was equal to that of Eastwood. Now 70, he seemed as
serene as ever. As for finally winding up a big screen career that started
in Italy with spaghetti Westerns, he said: "Oh no. I have threatened
to retire for the last decade. Maybe I'll threaten for another decade."
In a modest leopard-skin print evening dress, Stone sashayed on to the
festival stage to greet Eastwood as the "king of the jungle".
Actors had learned to listen to Eastwood, to "show off" like
him and take note of his "soulful and decent" spirit, said Stone.
Eastwood looked at his award, nodded to himself and muttered, in his trademark
drawl: "That's cool."