Source: Iran Times
Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami has received the Glory to the Filmmaker award for his movie "Shirin" at this year's Venice Film Festival, while two other Iranian directors also saw their films featured at international festivals.
"Shirin," which was screened but not marked for competition at the film festival in Venice, focuses on 113 Iranian actresses who are watching a film unseen to the viewer.
The film is taken from an 800-year-old Persian love story about Shirin, the princess of Armenia, and Khosrow, the prince of Persia. The film, however, only shows the reactions of a female audience watching a film that only exists in the mind of the viewer.
Although the actresses are silent, the film is accompanied by a narration taken from the fabled love story. The silent actresses include major Iranian stars like Hedieh Tehrani, Leila Hatami and Niki Karimi, as well as French actress Juliette Binoche, who wears the obligatory headscarf in the film.
Across the Atlantic, the film "Angels Die in the Soil," directed by Babak Amini, won an award last week at the 2008 Palm Springs International ShortFest and Short Film Market.
Angels Die in the Soil
Amini's film, which took home the Cinema Without Borders Best International Film Award, is a story about a headstrong woman who survived Iraq's chemical warfare attacks during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and then, during the 1991 Iraq war with the United States, comes across an American soldier who has been shot and left for dead by his captors.
Amini was born in 1978 in Kurdistan province. He studied in Tehran and graduated form an Iranian university with a degree in philosophy. Amini worked for 10 years as assistant to director Bahman Ghobadi.
Another film featured at the 65th Venice Film Festival was "Khastegi" (Tedium) by first-time Iranian director Bahman Motamedian. The film, which addresses the issue of transsexuals in Iran, was announced at the last minute to avoid alerting authorities to its sensitive subject. Motamedian said the film was made without going through official channels to get permission, and therefore will not be shown in Iran.
The film addresses the struggles of seven transsexuals in Iran, who live under Iran's strict gender codes. But Motamedian, who is best known in Iran for theater work, insisted the problems Iranian transsexuals face are universal to transsexuals anywhere in the world: finding their identity and seeking acceptance from their families.
"We know that throughout the world this problems exists," Motamedian said. "The idea was to raise awareness among families especially, because this is the first layer of barrier, and to help people to realize they are not alone and be able to face the problem."
Motamedian cast transsexuals, not professional actors, to play the role of his transsexual characters.
"The cast I worked with had no cinematic training, which I thought would be useful to access things that a professional actor wouldn't be capable of doing," Motamedian said.
"Usually an actor is trained to show things. I thought it was important to show what a person was hiding," he told a news conference last Friday.
But Iran has relatively progressive laws in dealing with transsexuals, and actually allots money annually to help people pay for sex-change operations. The late Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa that legitimized sex change operations if that were the only way to restore a healthy self-image in patients irreconcilably at odds with their birth sex.
Motamedian said the most difficult casting was for Shiva, the one female-to-male transsexual in the film.
"Right up to the day of shooting I hadn't found a suitable character to play that role ... and I even thought about cutting her out," Motamedian said. "As it is a very masculine and male-oriented society, the thought of really coming out and revealing that fact they wanted to come out and revealing they are not a 'real' male ... has real problems. All of the women I met who wanted to be male didn't want this to be known, for them it was a real problem coming out."
Meanwhile, in real life, Majid Kolestani, a transgender Iranian refugee was accused of the first degree murder of his male roommate-also a refugee from Iran-in southern Idaho.
Police allege that Kolestani, 42, who was born a man but portrays herself as a woman, shot and killed Ehsan Velayati Kababian, 29, last Monday.
Police say Kolestani came to the area through the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, and has been in the U.S. since January.
About Iran Times: The Iran Times is an independent newspaper with no affiliation with any political party or faction The Iran Times corporation was founded in Washington D.C. in 1970, in accordance with U.S. federal and local regulations: www.iran-times.com
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