World-renowned Egyptian actor Omar Sharif will act in the Iranian film ‘Saint Petersburg’, which is to be directed by Kamal Tabrizi. The latter directed Marmoulak aka The Lizard in 2004 which was Iran’s highest all-time box-office earner until it was banned by the government for its blasphemous nature. A thief escapes from jail disguised as a holy man ( A Mullah), and takes on that role in a small border village while trying to figure out a way to flee the country. The film was a subtle stance against the religious establishment although more through a social criticism than a call for political reform or an end to the theocracy. It clearly benefited from the last months of liberalization that characterized the Khatami administation’s Islamic glasnost. Kamal Tabrizi’s filmography hence has followed the same trend of criticism of the establishment through humor. However he does not belong to the Iranian New Wave Cinema best represented by Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf or Ghobadi. He is still very much part of the establishment he critisizes if not politically at least he is dependent on it both economically and technically. He also worked for the State Run Islamic Television and was also in charge of filming Ads for the unhappy candidate Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during the last Presidential Campaign that brought to Power the current radical president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
However the choice of having one of World Cinema Icons Omar Sharif is a great step forward if ever achieved to open the Iranian film industry to foreign talents and cooperation. It should be noted however that it is not a pioneering initiative in Iranian Cinema since Omar Sharif had already worked with Iranian co-productions during the Pahlavi era by joining an international cast on the set of Poppies are Also Flowers (1966) a film commissioned by UNESCO that was partly shot in Iran (Shiraz, Isfahan, Tehran) and dealt with the fight against international drug traffic. Producer Hamid Etebarian told the Mehr News Agency on Saturday ‘After making many efforts to contact the great actor of world cinema, he agreed to appear in ‘Saint Petersburg’ .
‘At present, he is waiting to receive the final version of the screenplay, which is currently being written by Peyman Qasemkhani. The screenplay will be translated into English to send to Sharif after it is completed,’ he added. ‘Saint Petersburg’ is about two cheats constantly conspiring against each other.
Omar Sharif, 75, who gained stardom in Egypt in many of Youssef Chahine’s films, truly came into the international spotlight after appearing opposite Peter O’Toole in David Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia followed by Lean’s Russian Epic Doctor Zhivago opposite the beautiful Julie Christie. He later became the Romantic lead in many popular European and Hollywood films often playing with great credibility Russian, Austro Hungarians and even German characters thanks to his good looks and unidentifiable accent.
Extremely popular in France (he speaks fluent French) he co-starred with such greats as Jean Paul Belmondo, Robert Hossein, Catherine Deneuve to name a few and has also gained fame as a world class horse race gambler and Bridge Expert. His latest film Monsieur Ibrahim et Les Fleurs du Koran earned him the French Oscar aka Le Cesar in 2003. He also got to play opposite our fellow Iranian American actor Marshall Manesh in Hidalgo in 2004. Hopefully Omar Sharif and Kamal Tabrizi will be cooperating on the upcoming film ‘Saint Petersburg’ in a near future but the exact plot of the film is yet to be known. Given the title and in the light of the recent visit of Russian President Putin to Iran, it would be interesting to learn if the movie will be shot on location in Russia and if it would be a Iranian-Russian co-production. In anycase we wish the cast and crew Good Luck!
VIVE LE CINEMA!
Author’s notes: About Kamal Tabrizi: born in 1959, he graduated in Cinema and Television from Art University. He began his artistic activities at the students society of Polytechnique College and then joined the cultural sections of I.R.I.B. Television where he made a number of short and feature-length documentary and T.V. feature films. Then for several years he was in charge of training programs at the former Azad Cinema Group and organized training programs in filmmaking and taught film direction and theory. He also taught at the Young Cinema Society of Iran and the Islamic Training Center for Filmmaking – affiliated with the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance. His first feature is the passage (1988) which he wrote and directed. His subsequent films are At the Altar of Love (1990), End of Childhood (1993) and Leyli Is With Me (1995) Which Launched a new trend in treating war and the sacred defense themes in a comedic, satirical vein. Leyli Is With Me was presented at numerous local and international film festivals and won the prize of Best Script and Diploma of Honor for Best Actor at the Fajr Festival. In 1998, Tabrizi made A Mother’s Love which was awarded several prizes at international festivals, including the prize of Best Film at the children and young people’s section of Berlin Festival, and Best Film award at Zlin, Cairo, Olympia and 400-strokes (Canada) festivals. Tabrizi then made Sheyda (2000), Carpet of the Wind, Take a Look at the Sky Sometimes (2002), Carpet of the Wind was awarded the spectators’ a prize and the special jury prize at Fajr Film Festival in 2002. Tabrizi has also directed two T.V. series Tales of the River (an Iran-Malaysia Coproduction, unreleased), and years of Rebellion which was a highly popular series and was selected as the critics’ choice of Best T.V. series.Tabrizi was also jury member at several editions of the short Film Festival organized by the Young Cinema Society, two editions of the International Festival of Films for Children and Young Adults, and at Fajr International Film Festival and Cairo International Film Festival.