Fajr film; An Iranian Struggle for Meaningful Cinema

Madi Jahangir – Most of my non-Iranian friends told me that they have watched Children of Heavens directed by Majid Majidi. Children of Heavens was a late 90s award winning Iranian movie telling story of a brother and sister and their struggle over a lost pair of shoes. It is about the same time in 90s that Iran has been lauded along with China as the best exporters of Cinema. Some critics even went further to rank Iran as the world’s most important national cinema. Iranian cinema is artistic and has often been compared with the Italian neo realism cinema movement in the past decades.

I am no fan of commercial Hollywood movies myself. I prefer the World’s cinema which still has not lost its realistic sense and special national characteristic to the universal disease of fictionalized animated or sexual provoking scenes. As I like to travel with a meaning, I appreciate the movies with a meaning too which are worth watching and broken from the definition of mainstream cinema.

As an example, Children of Heavens was one of my favorites too. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign language Film in 1998, but before that, it had been premiered in Fajr Film Festival 1997. In Iran like many other countries, there are many film festivals that are held every year. But the most important one is Fajr Film festival. Fajr literally means dawn. With all ups and downs it is an Iranian struggle for meaningful cinema. The annual film festival is held every February since 1982 in Tehran and recently in some other capitals of the provinces and it marks the anniversary of the Iranian revolution.

The 31st international Fajr international film festival just wrapped up some days ago in the Iranian capital Tehran, as this year’s Best Film Award went to Ali Ghaffari’s feature-length movie Refund.

In the competition section they have “World Panorama” which is for the cinema of foreign countries,”Cinema of Salvation” particularly for the Muslim countries and they had added a new section for Non-Align movement members. This year the cinema review went for the Cinema of China and Poland.

Along with the foreign participants who come to Iran as filmmakers or critics, Iranian youth widely participates in the festival. The love for cinema in Iran is for all social classes, regardless of levels of education. Just like any other countries, they go for the more known directors and usually the queue for those movies are the most crowded. They have the right to vote for the movies and most of the time most voted film by the viewers is among the best of the festival too and is awarded separately.

For many Iranians, Fajr is far beyond a national festival. As for Iranians love to inject passion in every inch of their life, even the struggle to buy the tickets is worth it. So is to stand in the line for long hours with friends and family to get into the cinema while shivering in the cold winter days of Tehran. It’s definitely worth the hope of watching a good movie that will leave them an unforgettable memory.

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