In "No One Knows About Persian Cats," musicians flee repression… (UCLA Film & Television Archive )
For the past two decades, the UCLA Film & Television Archive has been presenting the preeminent in Iranian art-house cinema -- highly personal, moving, contentious and even controversial films dealing with day-to-day life, social mores, religion and war.
Searing, haunting and often disturbing, these films offer insight into a troubled country that is largely known internationally only from reports in newspapers and on news channels.
The "20th Annual Celebration of Iranian Cinema," which opens Friday at the Billy Wilder, includes dramatic features, shorts and documentaries.
Among the highlights are Bahman Gohbadi's Cannes award-winning "No One Knows About Persian Cats," which screens Saturday, a look at two musicians who plan to leave Iran for England when faced with prohibition against rock music, and "About Elly," a drama about a woman who disappears while on a pleasure cruise, scheduled for Feb. 20.
FOR THE RECORD:
Iranian film festival: A caption for a photograph that accompanied an article in Friday's Calendar section about the Celebration of Iranian Cinema at UCLA identified the actress in the "About Elly" picture as Taraneh Alidousti. Golshifteh Farahani was shown in the photo. Alidousti was another star of the film. —
FOR THE RECORD:
Iranian cinema: An article in Friday's Calendar section about the "20th Annual Celebration of Iranian Cinema" at the Billy Wilder Theatre in Westwood misspelled the last name of filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi as Gohbadi. In addition, the article described the plot of the film "About Elly" as a drama about a woman who disappears while on a pleasure cruise. The woman is on a pleasure trip, not a cruise. —
"What has always fascinated me about Iranian cinema is that it is completely different from anything you are going to see coming out of Hollywood," says archive head Jan-Christopher Horak.
"First of all, the films we show have been justifiably praised at film festivals over the world. You also have a commercial cinema in Iran, which is a genre cinema of comedies, romantic melodramas and family films. But they never make it out of the country."
Director Shalizeh Arefpour will attend Friday's festival opener, "Heiran," a gripping and moving story about a young Iranian high school student who falls in love with an Afghan refugee despite her parents pleading with her not to marry an immigrant.
Award-winning actress Gohar Kheirandish will attend Sunday's screening of 2004's "Tradition of Killing Lovers," a drama that revolves around a man who is arrested for harvesting trees to support his family and sent to jail by his policeman son-in-law.
Kheirandish plays the wife of the incarcerated man in the award-winning film written and directed by Khosro Masoumi.
"The film is very bittersweet because it speaks about people who are seeking distant dreams they are never able to reach, which at times even leads to their demise," said Kheirandish, through a translated e-mail interview.
Masoumi's most recent film, 2008's "Wind Blows in the Meadow," screens Monday. Just as with "Killing Lovers," this tragic love story is set in the northern part of Iran against the backdrop of harvesting trees under harsh conditions.
The filmmaker has spent six years visiting the economically impoverished area of Iran, interviewing as many people as he could about their lives.
"As an author and director, I have tried to bring their stories to the screen to show the problems of the hard living conditions, to see if it is possible for other citizens in my country to shoulder some of their problems and also attract the attention of the authorities of this group of people," said Masoumi in an e-mail interview.
Iranian film directors, Kheirandish noted, "try to portray the realities of our society. The films explore human nature and issues of morality and ethics in a way that is rooted in Eastern culture. From the technical perspective, our films may not reach the capabilities found in other countries, but in terms of story line and characters, we are quite strong."
For more information go to www.cinema.ucla.edu.