The eleven Iranian films seen by NATPAC included fiction, animation, documentary and docudrama. The choice of subjects varied with plots and characters distinctly different from each other. In fact , no two films had any similarity or resemblance so forget cut and paste.
Docudrama The Narrow Red Line from 2019 was scripted an directed by Farzad Khoshdast. It showed us a group of teenagers (not a day over seventeen) in a Correction Center. The boys are guided and trained by a dedicated theater coach to leave their past behind and come up with a stage production, and finally, getting an invite from Germany for a visit and presentation. Yet nothing seemed theatrical and it all was all real. Powerful script , strong performance and direction with appealing production effects were at their best here.
Another docudrama 23 People from 2018, scripted and directed by Mehdi Jafari ,shows us 23 teenage soldiers as POWs during Iran-Iraq War in early-eighties. They are repeatedly forced to admit and record that they are under twelve and have been forced to go to war. Patriotism prevail and they refuse to take the orders from the enemy. At one point, when a boy is being forced to admit that he is under twelve, he shouts back "I am seventeen and married. How can I be twelve !". The boys after trials and turbulences, make sure in the end that they go back to their homes with respect and dignity. The film ends in the present when the kids, now in their middle-age, call on their chief (from the prison days). It is an emotional scene bringing tears with joy. 23 People won award at 2019 Fajr Film Festival. (not to be confused with Fijir International Film Festival).
Documentary Without My Friend from 2018, written and directed by Mohammad Ali Talebi, is a real account of two fifteen year old girls who attempt suicide by jumping off the bridge. One of them survives and we go into the facts for this tragic act. The film won at Cinema Verite, Iran Documentary Film Festival in 2018. It also won Best Actress Award at 37th Fajr International Film Festival. It is ruthless and shocking in showing actual incident filmed in a 3 minute video by the girls. There may be 101 reasons for this act but the bottom line is alienation from parents and generation gap.
The third and final film of my list is The Charcoal from 2019 scripted and directed by Esmeel Monsef. With a directorial debut, Esmeel takes us into the life of charcoal producer and his hard account from dawn to dust. NETPAC Jury awarded The Narrow Red Line as Best Film for portraying the life of boys in a correction center who end up well with positive guidance.
-- Aijaz Gul
--Edited by Latika Padgaonkar
The festival’s 16th edition also had two very different guests of honour - Hollywood actress Andy MacDowell (Steven Soderbergh’s Sex Lies and Videotape;) Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Russian-American actor Steven Seagal (Nico and Under Siege, both by director Andrew Davis).
This year’s programme was distributed in the following sections: Official, Official Panorama, Discoveries, NETPAC and Special - all in competition. Each had nearly twenty films participating.
The NETPAC Section had 18 films: One each from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Tajikistan, and Vietnam; two each from Cambodia and Thailand, and four from India.
Jocelyne Saab (30th Apr, 1948 - 7th Jan. 2019) Jocelyne Saab, widely considered one of the most important contemporary Arab filmmakers, passed away after a brave and difficult battle with cancer on 7 January. Although death had long been hovering, many of us in contact only through texting or phoning, were taken by surprise, as the usual season's greetings had been exchanged with no hint that this beloved member of our film community would leave us within a week. Read More...