A frequent subject of our weekly Iranian Film Report revolves around the emerging trend of international collaboration with Iranian filmmakers. With Majid Majidi’s Beyond The Clouds, which is still touring the festival circuit, India appears to have stepped to the plate as a reliable and evolving partner with the cinematic ambitions of the nation. Recently, at Tehran Times, director of The Cinema Organization of Iran (COI) Mohammad-Mehdi Heidarian stopped by to discuss the ongoing benefits and complications of Iranian filmmakers seeking international collaborators for their developing productions.
“We should try to find a solution for the obstacles hindering the way of companies eager to collaborate with our cineastes,” Heidarian says in the interview. While not explicitly stated, perhaps he is referring to the financial sanctions in place for Iranians—and, specifically, filmmakers—which has pushed many to submit requests for fee waivers from film festivals outside of the country (such as this one, which we previously reported on).
The importance of the Iranian voice, however, is not to be sacrificed in this negotiation of art and resources: “We should apply international standards in making films as we do our best to maintain our national identity and cultural and civilizational characteristics.”
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Other notable international collaborations have included Yeva, the Armenian-Iranian production which was Armenia’s submission to the Oscars (unfortunately, like Breath, it did not make the shortlist), Ali Atshani’s highly-anticipated 1st Born which stars Tom Berenger and Val Kilmer, and even Majidi’s own Indian followup, Gold Mine.
Month by month, these collaborations are increasing in number, with more prominent ones eschewing the lower box-office expectations of independent, “arthouse” productions. Heidarian might see this financial development as valuable as the cultural dialogue inherent in these projects: “Cinema…requires a dynamic economy…if we cannot provide the necessary funds to produce new films we will have to spend all our resources just to produce films for screening at art houses and then to be kept in archives.”
Aside from the size of production, and its resultant financing details, cultural cooperation can be another important factor, which Heidarian believes can be a strength. A Hollywood-produced biopic about Rumi fell apart during pre-production, but he sees Rumi’s life story as a perfect opportunity for both Iran and Turkey to collaborate.
The COI is a government-associated organization which administers major policies for the nation’s film industry.
Cover image: Sam Khoze, Director Ali Atshani, Taylor Cole and Dominique Swain on the set of the film “1st Born”