This weekend’s Iranian Film Festival in San Francisco packs in a wealth of presentations, covering varied subjects and centuries of history. It’s the eighth edition of the first independent cinematic festival outside Iran, and this year it presents the best films made by or about Iranians from around the world.
Besides Iran itself, countries represented include the U.S., United Kingdom, Mexico, Georgia, France, Syria, Germany, Canada, Italy. Countering still-existing restrictions on women, the festival prominently features women film-makers, actors, and subjects.
A good example is “A Tribute to Gohar Kheirandish,” a 2015 documentary by Pouria Heidary Oureh about a legendary Iranian stage and screen actress. Born in 1954 in Shiraz, the actress’s film career spans two decades with such highlights as the 1999 “Banoo” [Lady] and the 2008 “Shirin.” Mrs. Kheirandish will be present for the screening of her tribute.
Among those seen in “Tribute” are such important figures in Iranian cinema as the great director Asghar Farhadi (of “A Separation”), actress Leila Hatami (winner of numerous international awards), the famous actor Ezzatollah Entezami, and many others from today’s Iranian cultural scene.
Going way back in the past, but with the participation of women artists in the present, “Six Centuries, Six Years” sheds light on a wonderfully esoteric musical subject of reconstructing and reviving the works of Abd al-Qadir Maraghi, who died in 1435. He was an iconic Persian-Turkish composer and musicologist, with great influence, but neglected in modern times.
The documentary, directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, covers finding and performing Maraghi’s works as well as his invention of a notation system. Mirtahmasb is best known for co-directing “This Is Not a Film,” a strange, bold venture responding to his jailing by the Tehran government and the prohibition against making films.
“Words with Gods” comes from screenings at the Cannes and Berlin Film Festivals. It an exploration of the relationship between different cultures and religions (from Aboriginal spirituality to Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, and others), the film’s nine episodes have been made with the participation of an international cinematic who’s who – Iran’s Bahman Ghobadi, Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa, Spain’s Álex de la Iglesia, Australia’s Warwick Thornton, Brazil’s Héctor Babenco, India’s Mira Nair, Mexico’s Guillermo Arriaga, Israel’s Amos Gitai, and Japan’s Hideo Nakata. The soundtrack is by Peter Gabriel.
The cast includes Pooneh Hajimohammadi, Emir Kusturica, Demian Bichir, Richa Chadda, Inma Cuesta, and Shady Srour.
For information about the festival’s 33 films, see the website.