The Slovenia Times

Interview: Reza Mirkirami, Iranian Film Director



Congratulations to your country for its first Oscar! How does that make you feel?
We were all very excited however I think it should have happened earlier.

The films which represent Iran at international festivals do not rate among the local blockbusters. Is this due to the notable differences between popular and artistic cinematography?
There is no general rule. I'm aware that this is a scheme for many countries around the world, that the directors who have gained international recognition may not share equal fame in their homeland. For a few years now, Iranian cinematography has moved in the direction where so called 'cultural' movies attract a solid share of the general population. Directors such as Majid Majidi and Asghar Farhadi have managed to both sell tickets and impress foreign audiences . The Oscar awarded 'Separation' was number three at the Iranian box office last year.

Slovenia has a very small audience for domestic movies. It is perhaps one out of ten or fifteen films which earn enough to cover expenses, the rest is sponsored by institutions. Can film be a profitable business in Iran?
Iranian cinema has developed significantly under government sponsorship and in response to the limitations of screening foreign films. The State grants loans, provides financial and various other means of support for the film industry. It is safe to say that now is the time the State can decrease its support for cinematography as it is currently standing firmly on its own feet.

Who decides whether to sponsor a particular film?
Nearly all films are sponsored. More extensive help from the cultural fund are the responsibility of organisations which define priority topics and support the scripts accordingly.

Does that mean the artist should be ready for compromise in order to get funding?
In exchange for financial subsidies we need to face certain issues. It is a matter of the taste of the people in charge. Some artists are flexible enough to adapt to them, others seek alternatives to avoid such conditions.

International awards probably make these things easier...
Of course. Like anywhere, there is an elite class of filmmakers whose criteria for getting funding is less strict.

Your topics do not relate to some heroic acts, but rather to existential situations and dilemmas of everyday people. Where do you seek inspiration?
In everyday life around me. There is no single hero in the real Iranian stories of today. These are stories of desire or ambition. An individual is in doubt, cannot make a choice, lacks self-confidence. This is the kind of hero the audience is ready to accept.
After the revolution, we witnessed a period full of propaganda and paroles but people tend to identify with their real environment and the real people, the kind of characters who cannot change their world.

Western media display a very distorted picture of Iran. It portrays a backward country whose only concern is to develop nuclear weapons... Do you, as a filmmaker, feel obliged to send a different signal to the world?
Its a concern of all Iranian filmmakers. In any place I have been around the world, people ask me if it is the real Iran I put on film. I would like to say that the western media have indeed succeeded in spoiling the image of Iran. I think it is cinematography which deserves credit for portraying the true Iran. We should not forget that film is a medium with a lasting influence, while news can create momentary hype. Film takes time to get inside a viewer and then leaves a mark.

What about the audience itself? Are westerners receiving your work differently than the audience closer to home? Is attention paid to different elements and details?
There are certain differences but my experience is that people in different parts of the world have a greater number of things in common than differences between them. Some elements that interest western audiences, an Iranian viewer would not pay much attention too - and vice versa. However, all the essential questions we ask ourselves about the world around us turn out to be universal.

What about the Slovenian audience? How did they respond to the screening of your films?
It's a very interesting crowd. After the show, at the official discussion, nobody from the audience asked a thing. It makes you feel that people perhaps could not make much sense of what they had seen. But afterwards, when you speak to them in a more private situation, you figure they have a very thorough knowledge of arts.
I think that according to your position in Europe, the best thing you can invest in is culture. The politics and the economy should follow the culture. Slovenia is ready to host a festival from around the world every day! It is the capacity of the people and the geographic position. In general, my experience of the visit is very positive and I hope to maintain the contacts I have made here.


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