Iranian films continue to show up where one might least expect, and I was delighted to stumble upon their inclusion in a film festival in Marcellus, NY. The Marcellus Free Library will be hosting the second Marcellus Movie Madness Family Film (M3F3) festival this weekend, kicking off on Friday, November 10th.
Iranian film selections have long been included and spotlit in many international festivals, although there’s a likely reason for this: some films, like the work of Jafar Panahi, have had difficulty being released in their country of origin. This is what intrigued me about M3F3, which by no means emphasizes an internationally-leaning schedule, but deliberately provides a fee waiver to Iranian filmmakers who’d like to screen their work at the event.
Dr. Lewis McCaffrey is a new resident of Marcellus—a small town southwest of Syracuse—and came up with the festival in 2016. “My twin brother runs a film festival in the UK, and it seemed like a fun thing to do. I’m new to my community in Marcellus, and I thought it would be a way to meet people and help out. Now that internet festival support sites have been invented (filmfreeway.com), it is pretty easy to set up a festival and accept submissions. The point is to encourage local people to make and view homemade films, so the Iranian interest is a bit of a surprise.”
Partially funded through a small state grant, the M3F3 is equally devoted to educating high schoolers in filmmaking as it is to showing a strong variety of work to attendees. In fact, a short film will be shown this year, the result of a collaboration among eight new students of the medium.
So how did Dr. McCaffrey end up approaching Iranian films in particular? “The only Iranian film I had seen before this festival was Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, which I loved,” he says. “I hadn’t seen other Iranian films until the first year of our festival, when I got several requests by Iranian filmmakers to submit without paying the submission fees, because of the ban on international banking. I made an exception for them and I really enjoyed their storytelling and their vision. In fact, one won the short film section last year: 1-0 by Saman Hosseinpuor [you can watch this film here], about a boy having his hair cut while watching a soccer match. It is one minute long, and it is a gem.
“We got more Iranian films submitted this year—perhaps word got out that we were accepting those films.”
Five Iranian films in total will be featured this year, and Dr. McCaffrey was kind enough to provide some additional details on them, which we are happy to share below:
1) Zaman by Reza Shokrani: “[By] a 16-year old filmmaker. This is about the challenges faced by a Pakistani immigrant to Iran, and was touted by one of our judges a certain winner.
From the director: ‘Reza Shokrani is an Iranian-American filmmaker. His passion in film making began at age 10. He has attended numerous classes regarding film making, one of which was from Mehrdad Oskoui [who] is world famous and [a] winner of more than ninety International film festivals and best Iranian documentary filmmaker. Reza Shokrani made more than seven short films by age fourteen, two of which were broadcast on Iranian public television. His latest work is Zaman.’”
2) (Two films) Light and Track, both by Reza Golchin: “I loved Track, which is a mini-documentary [about] a bunch of young kids struggling through hilly, snowy, muddy countryside to get to school. I would love to know what they were saying and singing, but there are no subtitles.”
3) Swan Lake: “An animated love story by Ali Nikfar. It is dream-like, hallucinatory, and unique.
4) The Guy Came on Horseback: “Another love story, by Hossein Rabiei Dastjerdi of Esfahan. I have reservations about this one because of its depiction of disability, but we’ve put it in the schedule anyway, and the audience can make up their own minds.”
The Marcellus Movie Madness Family Film festival begins Friday, November 10th, and runs until Sunday, November 12th, at the Marcellus Free Library. You can take a look at the full schedule here.
Cover image: A still from Reza Golchin’s film ‘Track’
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