Iran recently hosted the first Kish Island Film Festival to promote Cinema from Asia and North Africa. I was surprised to come across some great film makers from Armenia, Georgia, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. I was on the feature film Jury with famous Iranian director Masoud Kimiyai who is a novelist and has 32 films to his credit. Others on the Jury were Elchin Musaoglu of Azarbaijan, Asif Noorani, a journalist for the newspaper Dawn in Pakistan and editor of the Eastern Film magazine. The woman director from Tajikistan, Gulandom Muhabatova could not come at the last minute.
The festival screened documentaries and short films too. Each award comprised cash prize of 3000 US dollars. There were seminars by famous producers from UK, France and Australia.
Besides a hectic schedule of watching films, we really enjoyed the hospitality of the festival team. There were some minor problems regarding the tickets but the beautiful place with its pristine sea beach and coral rift overwhelmed us and we forgot the problem instantly. Surprisingly Iran is more relaxed now as far as music is concerned. In my last trip, I did not find a piano in the star hotel in Teheran but this Hotel Dariush had a Grand piano and a brilliant singer in the lobby. We learnt that the singer is actually the Chief of the Security. Even the restaurant in the hotel had a synthesizer played by a talented young man. The dress code in Kish is more relaxed than the mainland as Kish is a free port. The opening ceremony of the festival had a brilliant Iranian singer and his pretty wife played the dufli, as we know it in India.
Cinema transcends language. Though Mr.Masoud Kimiyai did not speak English, we mostly agreed on the awards we gave. Here is the list of awards:
Best Film from IRAQ: SON OF BAYLON.
The film is a heart wrenching story of a Kurdish old woman who sets out on a journey with her grand son of about 8 years to look for her missing son who was enrolled in the army. The army never confirmed the news of the death of so many missing soldiers .There were mass graves at many places. They search for the names in the desert where skeletons with name tags are found buried. During the journey, the little boy befriends a man who served in Saddam Hussein’s army .The old lady hated this stranger and did not want her grand son to speak with such a man. But fate had other designs and they are thrown together in the circumstances. The stranger is guilty of the crimes committed by the state government and is apologetic; and helps them to discover the truth that there is no possibility of finding the son alive. The old lady comes to terms with it and on the way back they see the gates of the great civilisation Babylon.
Director: Nosir Saidov of Tajikstan for TRUE NOON.
The film is about how the political changes like a division of a village into two different states, affects the lives of the people who still share warm feelings.
The film depicts the life of a simple village in Tajikstan where a man wants a son after having three daughters. The elder daughter is assisting a Russian man in his weather forecast tower. The girl is in love with a boy in the eastern side of the village. Suddenly the village is divided by the Russian regime and they put barbed wires on the line of division. The man’s wife has to be rushed to the hospital on the other side for child birth. Both side of the village co-operate. The regime plants bombs to control the border crossing. The Russian man makes a metal detector and marks the places where the regime has planted the bombs on the border so that whenever they cross it, they can be careful. Finally on the day of the marriage, the party from the girl’s side crosses the border and the last man is the Russian man. He steps on the bomb but allows everyone to pass and at the end. As he lifts his foot, he bomb explodes killing the Russian man. He sacrifices his life for this innocent Tajik people.
The director brilliantly yet subtly executes this film in a pastoral setting without any gimmicks.
Best Script: Iran’s GOLCHEHEREH.
It is about an Iranian cinema lover who tries to revive cinema after the communist regime but is faced with the wrath of the Taliban who think TV and cinema is “haram”.
The plot of the film unfolds efficiently with well defined, etched out characters. The main protagonist is an Iranian residing on the Iran Afghan border .He is a cineaste who wants to save the classics of Truffaut, Satyajit Ray, Fellini and De Sica. He manages to hide the rare prints but the daughter who is a lady doctor is forcibly taken away by the Taliban mullah who marries her. The daughter manages to run away with her little daughter from the clutches of the mullah whose condition was that he would marry again if she delivers a girl child. She is reunited with her father after four years and rejoices the safety of the prints.
Best Actor: Joe Suba of USA in stunning film OPIUM WAR from Afghanistan. In limited space and time, the actor recreates the American psyche and transports you there with his performance.
Special Jury Mention goes to Kazakhstan’s FAREWELL GOLSARY which is based on a famous novel.
Its about a man’s disillusion with the communist philosophy in the 50s USSR .It is depicted metaphorically through the relationship with a horse Golsary. The horse is a breeding horse but it has to work for long hours forcibly for the communist party. They even castrate the horse so that it cannot be used for breeding. When the horse becomes older and can’t work as much, he is abandoned by the party.
Lastly I would mention an interesting film from Jordan called CAPTAIN ABU RAED which has three stories of loneliness interconnected with each other.
And the Russian film LIVE with two characters absolutely opposite to each other meeting accidentally in a forest; forced to spend some time together.
Indian film JODHA AKBAR did not create interest among the Jury.
The inaugural edition of the festival accepted films which were 5 years old and from the next year, the festival will accept 3 year old films. Expected to pick up next year, the festival has plans to start a Film Market after 2 years.
What impressed me was that the Iran Government did not interfere at all in the decisions of the Jury. It is impressive that Iran now occupies the centre stage to promote Art and culture of the Asian countries.
Like the French in Europe, the Persians preserved their cultural identity which was 6000 years old and influenced most of the Central Asian countries. But the Islamic polity in 10th Century absorbed the Persian culture in Iran.
On the last day, we were taken to visit the Underground city of 2500 years old. It had fresh water from underground for the travellers who came there to rest. The walls are built in stone with coral lining and the temperature of the underground is few degrees less than the outside temperature. There sitting in the restaurant on a takht(divan), you can smoke “hookah” and have Persian tea.