By Darius KADIVAR Reporting from France
Kiarostami's "Certified Copy" highlights Binoche's Beauty as Iran's film maestro competes for Cannes Palme D'Or Win amidst bitter critics from fellow Iranian colleagues
©MK2 © Festival de Cannes
The French Riviera expects the 63rd Edition of the Cannes International Film Festival to take off for two weeks of a visual marathon (12th to 23rd of May) as the latest Crème de la Crème of the World's Cinema Talents rush to showcase their works or simply be in the spotlight of international photographers, film critics and reviewers from around the world avid to discover new or confirmed talents for exclusive interviews and photo calls. As such Cannes has always been a unique film festival where exuberant glamour often co-exists with modest appearances and where infatuated praise is opposed by heated debates or epic quarrels over the artistic relevance or not of a given film or of it's director and cast. One can simply take a walk down the memory lane of the Film Festival's 63 years history to be reminded of some of it's most spectacular extravaganzas. Be it Maurice Pialat's Bras D'Honneur to the audience of professionals present upon receiving the 1987 Palme D'Or for his controversial Sous le Soleil de Satan or Quentin Tarantino's Finger Pointing upon Receiving the prestigious Palme for Pulp Fiction amidst boos and applause or the anarchy of the May '68 Rebellion which forced the Festival to end abruptly (under the pressure of the French New wave directors spearheaded by François Truffaut and Jean Luc Goddard ) in solidarity with the short lived Student-Proletariat Revolution that turned into a masquerade, none of these incidents have left anyone indifferent.
This year's Festival may not necessarily witness any dramatic incidents as in the past, but it will certainly have its share of surprises, disappointments and enthusiasms all of which will be immortalized by media professionals and movie buffs present. From the red carpet marches of the Palais des Festival to the Martinez Bar, nothing will be neglected by the organizers and sponsors to make sure that the Cannes 63rd edition will live up to everyone's expectations.
©imdb.com & © Festival de Cannes
Prior to the beginning of each event, the Festival de Cannes board of directors appoints four juries who will hold sole responsibility for selecting films from the festival crop which will receive the blessing of a Cannes award. Jurors are chosen from all walks of the international film industry, based on their body of work and respect from their peers. In many cases, jury membership (especially the presidency) is bestowed on a kind of 'lifetime achievement award' basis.
The 2010 Competition Jury is composed as follows:
Tim Burton (Director, USA)
Kate Beckinsale (Actress, UK)
Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Actress, Italy)
Alberto Barbera (Director of National Museum of Cinema, Italy)
Emmanuel Carrère (Writer/Director, France)
Benicio Del Toro (Actor, Puerto Rico)
Víctor Erice (Director, Spain)
Shekhar Kapur (Director/Actor/Producer, India)
Alexandre Desplat (Composer, France)
2010 Cinéfondation/Short Film Jury
Atom Egoyan (Director, Canada)
Emmanuelle Devos (Actress, France)
Dinara Drukarova (Actress, Russia)
Carlos Diegues (Director, Brazil)
Marc Recha (Director, Spain)
2010 Un Certain Regard Jury
Claire Denis (Director, France)
Jury members yet to be announced
2010 Caméra d'Or Jury
President and Jury yet to be announced
As for the Films in Competition for the Palme D'Or Category Only:
Another Year by Mike Leigh
As Abbas Kiarostami's presence in the above competition, it will be an interesting challenge for the 1997 Cannes Palme D'Or Laureate to renew contact with the Croisette and the international film community with his very first non Persian speaking film.
Kiarostami and Binoche were asked to write the Intro and Preface of Gilles Jacob's ( the Director of the Cannes Film Festival) Photo Book entitled Livre D'Or, a personal photographic collection highlighting Cannes through his lens.
©imdb.com & © éditions du Seuil © © Festival de Cannes
Plot of Certified Copy:
Set in Tuscany, Certified Copy follows the journey of a British writer (William Shimell) who is giving a series of conferences on Art and the interactions that exist between an original artwork and it's copy ( a theme illustrated before by such film masters as Orson Welles in F For Fake). He meets a young and beautiful French Arts dealer ( Juliette Binoche) who takes him to a local quaint village and lures him into a game of false identities by suggesting to locals that he is actually her husband. The chemistry between the two protagonists leads to unpredictable situations where the frontier between reality and fiction is often misleading ... The film is an indirect tribute by Kiarostami to Roberto Rossellini's 1954 film Viaggio in Italia aka Journey to Italy.
Teaser: Official Trailer Copie Conforme ©MK2 Diffusion
Whatever the Jury's ultimate decision, Kiarostami's Copie Conforme aka Certified Copy will certainly not pass unnoticed for several reasons ...
First Encounter: Binoche offers flowers to Kiarostami (1997). This innocent gesture was to create a diplomatic incident with the IRI Authorities that intensified with Ahmadinejad's first term in office.
One being that the movie casts the French star of The English Patient (and Oscar Awardee for this film), Juliette Binoche (who also happens to illustrate the Official Cannes Poster of this Year's 63rd edition) and co star William Shimell ( a new comer in film but a well known and respected baritone of the British Opera scene: he worked on Kiarostami's adaptation of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte Opera). As such Kiarostami's film will certainly be highlighted on the French Riviera by their glamorous presence along with that of the highly respected Iranian film maestro.
It will also offer Kiarostami the opportunity to remind the Cannes Festivaliers that Certified Copy is his second creative collaboration with Binoche after her cameo in the experimental film Shirine (2008). A film which was a heartfelt tribute to the language of Cinema and it's universality and which was shot during the French Star's controversial and much talked visit to Iran in 2006 which nearly prompted the Iranian government as well as Parliament deputies to issue hostile statements towards both Binoche and Kiarostami.
Master class Abbas Kiarostami - Shirine (2008)
The other reason why Kiarostami's film and presence on the Croisette will be much scrutinized is that it is the first time since last June's Presidential Elections and the violence that followed that the film maestro will be confronted to the international press and may be expected to take a public stance in regard to the predicament of fellow Iranian colleagues back home and abroad, be it film director Jafar Panahi currently in prison, or actress Golshifteh Farahani and director Mohsen Makhmalbaf both of whom have chosen exile and have been particularly vocal in their critics of the Islamic Republic and their support for the Green Movement (as the anti government Protest movement is called).
At a time when the current Islamic theocratic regime in Iran is clamping down on freedom of expression and calling for an Islamic purification and Cultural Revolution to wipe anything deemed as subversive or a result of westoxication (such as banning the use of English words in titles of National Film productions) to censoring films with a critical social or political standpoint ( such as Bahman Ghobadi's Persian Cats) or imprisoning filmmakers (as Panahi, or Bahman Ghobadi's girlfriend Roxanna Saberi), there seems to be much expectation to see the founding father of Iran's New Wave Cinema to clearly take a stand as to where he stands in regard to the Iranian regime ...
This expectation was enhanced in recent months and probably unfairly by an Open letter written by Bahman Ghobadi to Abbas Kiarostami accusing him of remaining silent in regard to last years protests and for remaining politically neutral or uninterested.
Ghobadi's bitter critics seem disproportionate given that Kiarostami actually did express himself on the situation in Iran whilst shooting his film in Italy last summer, expressing his dismay for the bloody aftermath. On the other hand Kiarostami's films have never been particularly aimed at making political statements except metaphorically. His early works and particularly documentaries shortly after the Revolution were naturally influenced by the political turmoil's of his country but unlike his fellow colleague and friend Mohsen Makhmalbaf his films remained politically neutral either by convenience or by choice even at times when it would have been particularly easy for him to express himself (such as during the reform years of moderate cleric Muhamed Khatami's presidency). From this perspective Ghobadi's critics appear more of a jealous rant or shaped by a misplaced ego than an objective assessment of Kiarostami's so called neutrality or indifference to the predicament of his fellow compatriots in their struggle for democracy and freedom.
Abbas Kiarostami discusses censorship -Late 1990's
As a filmmaker Kiarostami's loyalty resides first and foremost in his art. All the more that despite an international recognition which few in his profession have acquired, he has remained fairly modest and low profile despite his critically acclaimed cinematic triumphs.
Abbas Kiarostami discusses his reception in the West
Not hesitating for instance to pay tribute to his peers, as he did a few years ago at the San Francisco International Film Festival where he publically delivered the prestigious Akira Kurosawa Award initially conferred to him, to his exiled Iranian colleague and legendary pre-revolution film star Behrooz Vossoughi.
Abbas Kiarostami dedicates his Akira Kurosawa Award (at the San Francisco International Film Festival) by promptly giving it away to honour Legendary actor Behrouz Vossoughi ( a Prominent Star in Pre-Revolution Iran)
However unfair the critics targeting Kiarostami may seem, justified or not they do raise the question of an Artist's accountability towards his art and beyond. One that haunts every artist is to know whether or not creativity in all circumstances can justify isolating oneself from the realities of the world we live in? If so how can that artist claim to some universality aimed at bonding humanity?
Photocomposition © DK & ©imdb.com
This is a vast philosophical question to which the author of his article does not claim to have the answer, however it does illustrate the limits and dilemma faced by artists in general and from all walks of life, backgrounds and disciplines.
Like all individuals, artists live and work in interaction with the World and equally influence and are influenced in return by that experience.
In the same way a philosopher or research scientist can be criticized of building a cathedral with great ideas without ever putting them to practice or feeling accountable to society for his discoveries or inventions, the same can be applied to an artist. That however is very different from slandering or crucifying a person for merely being who he or she is ...
Kiarostami's filmography may appear too metaphorical to some critics or viewers tastes to grasp but anyone is free to debate on his films artistic, social or even political values all the more that his films are often competing at film festivals worldwide and this year in Cannes in particular. So from this perspective, it seems to me that the premises of Bahman Ghobadi's critics towards Kiarostami's filmography are flawed.
IN SOLIDARITY: Hollywood's greatest directors and actors ranging from Steven Spielberg, Michael Moore, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro to name a few have mobilized in favor of Panahi asking for his immediate release from the IRI's prison (see BBC Report)
Photocomposition © DK & ©imdb.com
However from an individual (as opposed to individualistic) perspective and as a fellow compatriot and colleague of the film maestro, Ghobadi's critics towards Kiarostami are not to be entirely refuted on mere grounds of professional jealousy. Both directors benefit from critical acclaim in many film festivals and are respected with a great following and comfortable distribution of their films in a highly competitive market. As such they are not only role models for aspiring movie directors but also for their fellow compatriots who to date see them as cultural icons and ambassadors of Persian Culture abroad. As such given the tragic turn of events in their home country, the massive brain drain and exile of many fellow colleagues, one can legitimately expect Kiarostami to react to these events and share his genuine views on the predicament of his compatriots as well as fellow colleagues in jeopardy (which he actually has to date but probably not with enough vehemence or vocal enough to be heard or noticed) without necessarily demanding him to take sides or support a given political leader of figurehead for that matter.
Film directors Marjane Satrapi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf denounce Ahmadinejad's Electoral Coup at the European Parliament with Euro Green Party Deputy Daniel Cohn- Bendit and Icon of the May 68 Revolution in France.
©imdb & photocomposition ©DK
Others have ... particularly in the Diaspora but also amongst recently exiled fellow colleagues as mentioned above ranging from Mohsen Makhmalbaf to Golshifteh Farahani to Diaspora Artists like Marjane Satrapi (who was the first to give a joint conference with Mohsen Makhmalbaf at the European Parliament at the wake of the Post Election Clampdown assimilating Ahmadinejad's election to a Coup ), actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, director Shirine Neshat, Googoosh ( the latter meeting equally Former Queen Farah Pahlavi as well as Iranian Dissident and former IRI Reformist Akbar Ganji during a hunger strike in NY) , and fellow Pop Stars like Ebi ( See BBC Coverage) , Dariush ( Watch Washington DC Demo Free Concert) or Sattar all of whom in their own right expressed solidarity with their fellow compatriots often in public gatherings or demonstrations and not particularly for any personal or financial gain but rather for purely patriotic reasons.
Golshifteh Farahani participation to the Hollywood movie A Body of Lies had already compromised her relation with the IRI cultural authorities.
She had chosen Exile ever since last years Post Election Clampdown.
(See Author's Notes (****) below
©imdb & photocomposition ©DK
is precisely because many live in free and democratic countries that our
Diaspora Artists have been more vocal over the years in voicing their countrymen
and women's predicament back home than their fellow colleague's still working
and living in Iran. However since last June's Post election protests even the
latter have become more vocal and openly and speaking without ambiguity about
human rights violations and their desire to see their country free, secular and
TAKING A STAND: More and More Iranian Expat Diaspora Artists are clearly taking a Political Stance against the Islamic Republic. (*)
photocomposition © DK
Even young filmmakers like Narges Kalhor the daughter of Mehdi Kalhor, President Ahmadinejad's cultural advisor (Mehdi Kalhor wished to see Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis banned from screening at the Cannes Film Festival) have seeked political asylum in Germany disillusioned by the regimes atrocities ( See her Interview by Hana Makhmalbaf).
So in retrospect maybe the Iranian Arts community and movie buffs are right to legitimately expect some public and symbolic stance by the great Iranian film maestro towards a regime that has been doing so much harm equally to his profession, his fellow colleagues but also to his countries cultural representation abroad.
Kiarostami is well placed to have experienced this firsthand given that even when he received the Palme D'Or in 1997 for his film Taste of the Cherry from the hands of French Star Catherine Deneuve (She was the voice and inspiration for the character of Marjane Satrapi's Mother in Persepolis) he was snubbed by the Iranian embassy in Paris ( which refused to even host a party to honor the laureate and the festival's jury: a tradition usually respected and expected as a sign of curtsey by most participants at Cannes) and was troubled by some of the regime's authorities once back home.
STEAL FROM THE RICH AND GIVE TO THE POOR: Political each in their own way ... Ridley Scott's Robin Hood and Oliver Stone's Wall Street 2 are amongst the much expected Films Off Competition to Premiere at Cannes before their International Release.
In addition before there was even an Iranian New Wave Cinema, there was Kanoon. Founded in 1965 with the blessing of then-queen Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi, the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults--mostly referred to as Kanoon, an abbreviation of the Persian/Farsi name--produced books, audiotapes, and films, both animated and live action, for Iranian children from Tehran to Bushehr, Sistan, and Baluchistan. Stories such as Baba Barfi (Father Snow), Amoo Norooz (Uncle New Year), The Journey of Sinbad, or Khorshid Khanoom Aftab Kan (Shine on, Lady Sun) were tales that all Iranian children would come to know and cherish.
The history of Kanoon since its inception prior to the revolution is therefore equally intertwined with many of Iran's post-revolution cultural achievements. From Empress Farah's cultural initiatives to the heyday of the Iranian left to the revolution of 1979. Kanoon would become a sort of incubator for some of the country's most celebrated artists--including Ebrahim Forouzesh, Noureddin Zarrinkelk, and many of the protagonists of Iranian cinema, Sohrab Shahid-Sales, Abbas Kiarostami, and Amir Naderi among them.
Unhappy by the treatment of actors and actress' by the Islamic Republic after the revolution of 1979, Legendary Actor Fardin speaks bitterly in 1992 at Ali Tabesh's memorial service. Fardin was one of the guest speakers. When Fardin passed away in 2000, a crowd of over 20,000 mourners gathered to pay their respects (See BBC Report).
Acknowledging this fact does not add nor retrieve the personal merits and unique talents of Iran's film maestro no more than that of an entire generation of Iranian filmmakers who created the Persian New Wave Cinema (See Iranian Pioneers of The French New Wave Cinema by DK). It merely underlines if needed the Universality of the Arts to which each and every true artist aspires to belong to, or hopes to honor, through his or her work, while acknowledging the community of talents which help define and shape the human and cultural identity of the nation and the people he or she belongs to. In addition it would probably achieve what No political agenda has been able to achieve to date: A genuine and much needed solidarity and mutual understanding between Diaspora Iranians (artist or not) and from across the democratic political spectrum irrelevant of ideological preferences and there fellow compatriots back home (artist or not) struggling for Democracy and Human Rights.
From this perspective only, Abbas Kiarostami's discreet behavior or deemed political neutrality is therefore no exception to the rule ...
VIVE LE CINEMA !
VIVE LA SOLIDARITE!
See: Official Website of the 63rd International Cannes Film Festival 2010
More and More Iranian Artists ( equally Diaspora artists as well as recently exiled) are expressing their Political Stance through their Art:
(*) Exiled Iranian pop star Ebi in presidential warning ( bbc)
Ebi's Song Before Last June's Elections : Taslim (Watch Here)
(* bis) Iran Hunger Strike Googoosh, Ganji, Iranian Celebrities At United Nations July 22 (Watch Here)
(**) Man Hamoon Iranam I am Iran (Eng Subtitles) (Watch Here)
(***) Andy and Jovi Sing Stand By Me in Tribute to Iran's Struggle for Democracy and Freedom ( Watch Here)
(****) Sokoot: Calm before the storm... a rousing song for freedom. Music by Esfandiar Monfaredzadeh. Lyrics: Pooyan, Video production by Sara Raha. (Watch Here)
Golshifteh Farahani Interview with bbc Persian on Not being able to go back to Iran (Watch Here)
(*****) Gladiatorha: Mohsen Namjoo music video directed by Mostafa Heravi (Watch Here)
Although Openly a Constitutional Monarchist yet Influenced by French Existentialist Philosopher Jean Paul Sartre's "Engagement" ( political activism) Philosophy Iranian Expat and Political activist Fereydoun Farrokhzad speaks about the Artist and his Political responsibility (1980's): (Watch Here)
Down the Memory Lane with Pre Revolution Actors:
(******) Parviz Sayyad ( actor/ director of The Political thiller Ferestadeh) speaks about his work before and after the Revolution ( Watch Here)
(*******) Fardin in 1992 at Ali Tabesh's memorial service, Fardin was one of the guest speakers. As you can tell he is not happy with the treatment of actors or actress after the revolution. Fardin passed away in 2000 and at his funeral, a crowd of over 20,000 mourners gathered to pay their respects. (Watch Here)
(********) Here is a great video created by Mr. Sohrab Akhavan (www.filmexmedia.com) about Reza Beyk Imanverdi. This clip was made in 2002 one year before Beyk Imanverdi's passing away. (Watch Here)
(*********) Manoochehr Vossough speaks exclusively to Bebin TV as he reflects on his incredible life as a legendary actor in Iran. ( Watch Here)
(**********) Miri One of the funniest actors in Iran's pre revolution cinema, talks about how he started in the business in an interview in L.A. Let Miri take you down the memory lane! (Watch Here)
(***********) Clips from the 2003 documentary about life and work of the great Reza Arham Sadr. (Watch Part One, Watch Part Two)
Cannes Controversies Over The Years:
A look at the events and some of the causes of the uprising in France in the Spring of 1968 from the Views of the French and European Film directors as well as the Students who took part at the time (Watch Here)
John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the Croisette defend their Independent Artistic Stance and life After the Beatles (which Music Lennon compares to Goddard Films in terms of creativity). (Watch Here)
Maurice Pialat Booed and Applauded upon receiving the Palme D'Or for controversial Sous le Soleil de Satan (Watch Here)
Quentin Tarantino's Finger Pointing upon Receiving the prestigious Palme for Pulp Fiction (Watch Here)
Abbas Kiarostami ( Cannes Laureate 1997) talks about American director Quentin Tarantino ( Cannes Laureate 1994) (Watch Here)
SULTAN OF MY HEART: Monika Jalili and Noorsaaz's remembrance of things past... by Darius KADIVAR
On Tim Burton:
TIM BURTON'S ORIENTAL DREAM: 1001 Nights Tale marks Hollywood director's film debut By Darius KADIVAR
Kiarostami Gets Operatic! By Darius KADIVAR
TICKETS TO MASTERCLASS: Co-Direction of Styles with KIAROSTAMI, LOACH, OLMI by Darius KADIVAR
Kiarostami Reveals Name of Film With Juliette Binoche by Darius KADIVAR
Observing the Maestro: Binoche paints Kiarostami for Les Chahiers by Darius KADIVAR
Pompidou Hosts Kiarostami-Eric Exhibition
by Darius KADIVAR
BINOCHE FEMME DANGEREUSE! by Darius KADIVAR
BINOCHE NUE by Darius KADIVAR
On IRI Censorship, Films and Diaspora's Political Activism:
When Giants Meet: The Queen of Persian Pop greets the Shahbanou of Iran in NY Live Concert by Darius KADIVAR
Prisoner of Conscience: Akbar Ganji and Costa Gavras' Confession BY Darius KADIVAR
NEO CON WARMONGERS? Tehrangeles Demo in Support of Iran's Greens By Darius KADIVAR
Satrapi's Persepolis Criticized by Iranian Authorities by Darius KADIVAR
BRAVO MESDAMES!: Aghdashloo, Neshat, Reza and Farahani Shined Through 2009 Summer Season's International Awards by DK
BINOCHE FEMME DANGEREUSE! By Darius KADIVAR
IRANIAN FACING CENSORSHIP by Darius KADIVAR
WHY AM I STILL BEING KEPT HERE? By Darius KADIVAR
HOSTAGE TO TEHRAN By Darius KADIVAR
FEREYDOUN FARROKHZAD REMEMBERED By Darius KADIVAR
Syriana Breaks Iranian Stereotypes by Darius KADIVAR
A Director's Cut: Cyrus Nowrasteh film The Stoning of Soraya M. By Darius KADIVAR
Mona's Dream by Darius KADIVAR
REZA's CALL: An Iranian Solidarnosc... by Darius KADIVAR
RESPONDING TO REZA's CALL: An Iranian Solidarnosc in
the Making ...
By Darius KADIVAR
Banned Hollywood Dream: Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani troubled over a Body of Lies By Darius KADIVAR
New Faces in French Politics by Darius KADIVAR
On Cannes & Iranians in French Cinema:
Iranian Pioneers in French New Wave Cinema by Darius KADIVAR
Satrapi's Persepolis wins "Prix du Jury" at Cannes by Darius KADIVAR
THE MAKING: Satrapi's Cinephilic Choice for Persepolis Cast
by Darius KADIVAR
THE EYE OF THE TIGER: Marjane Satrapi and the Persepolis Generation by Darius KADIVAR
Satrapi's Persepolis Criticized by Iranian Authorities by Darius KADIVAR
MARJANE SUR TOUS LES FRONTS ! Marjane Satrapi's artistic and political activism, highlighted in the French Media amidst Iran's post-election turmoil by Darius KADIVAR
In The Shadows of Cinematography with
By Darius KADIVAR
Carriere's Master Class in Tehran by Darius KADIVAR
BREAKING THE WAVES: Iranian Women of the Diaspora Seduce French Media by Darius KADIVAR
A Class Apart:Fereydoun Hoveyda (1924-2006) by Darius KADIVAR
Philippe Khorsand: A Discreet Iranian Sidekick by Darius KADIVAR
Being Princess Shams: Mathilda May portrays Late Shah's Sister by Darius KADIVAR
Anicee (ALVINA) Shahmanesh: France's Sex Icon of the 1970's by Darius KADIVAR
An Independent Eye: Producer/Distributor
by Darius KADIVAR
About the Author: Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Media Consultant. He is also contributes to OCPC Magazine in LA/US and to the London Based IC Publications The Middle East Magazine and Persian Heritage Magazine.
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