Tuesday, April 9, 2013


THE West may view the Islamic Republic of Iran as a nuclear threat, undemocratic and a sponsor of terrorism – but this will not stop Tehran exporting its rich culture to the rest of the world. Between 2006 and 2010 the UN ratified four rounds of sanctions against Iran in reaction to its refusal to halt uranium enrichment and co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In addition, it also faces EU and many other bilateral sanctions. Iran insists its nuclear energy programme is entirely peaceful and terms the sanctions as “bullying” pressures from the West. One of the ways of shifting away from the image of a “Rogue State” as portrayed by the West, Iran is to promoting its cultural heritage through the export of its cinematic productions, among others. The Cultural Council of Iran has just presented the inaugural Iranian Film Festival in Uganda that took place at the National Theatre in Kampala from February 1 - 3, 2013, where eight films celebrating the rich Iranian culture were screened. All films were acted in Persian with English subtitles. The festival opened with the 2005 drama film “So Far, So Close.” Directed by Seyyed Reza Mir-Karimi the 121-minute film is about a man's beliefs. It revolves around Dr. Alam (Masoud Rayegan) a skilled brain surgeon who has just returned to Iran. He is so engrossed in his professional work that he pays less attention to his family. Dr. Alam doesn't believe in God. "We, ourselves make God, till we beg His generosity when we need Him,' he often says. As "Nowrouz", the Iranian New Year approaches, he learns that his only son Saman has an inoperable brain tumour and is dying soon. He laments why his own hands have saved lives but will not save his son’s life. Saman is a student of astronomy and is accompanying his friends to the desert to observe the stars. Dr. Alam embarks on a desert trip to find his son. A series of near-death experiences makes him rethink his views of God. His car runs out of fuel in the middle of the desert without food and water. Because of the poor communication in the area he cannot alert Saman of his predicament. He is saved by his son after his car gets consumed in a strong desert sand storm. “So Far, So Close” was Iran's submission in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 2005 Oscars. “The Kingdom of Solomon (2010)” directed by Shahriar Bahrani is religious-historical film recounting the life of Prophet Solomon based on the Holy Qur’an. Solomon (Prophet and King), has asked God to give him an ideal kingdom, which has never been given to anybody before. He is told to prepare himself and his subjects for the evil and unearthly creatures that haunt the men. Tribes of Israelites decline his calls for help in his attempt to have an ideal kingdom. Some tribes still believe in their traditional religions and witchcraft. He also has to contend with jinns and demons. “The Kingdom of Solomon” won the Best Film and Best Director awards at the first edition of Iraq’s Jewar Film Festival held in 2010 in Baghdad. It was produced at a cost of $5 million making it one of the most expensive Iranian cinematic productions. It is also the country’s first digital film. “A Separation” is a 2011 Iranian drama film written and directed by Asghar Farhad. It focuses on an Iranian middle-class couple who separate, and the conflicts that arise when the husband hires a lower-class carer for his elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. “A Separation” won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012, becoming the first Iranian film to win the award. It also won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 2012, among others. The film “Days of Life (2012)” directed by Parviz Sheikhradi is set during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. When the resolution is accepted for ceasefire between Iran and Iraq, inhabitants of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital are confronted by Iraqi army’s sudden attack. A physician couple try to save the lives of the injured working on the war front at a field hospital that is surrounded by Iraqis. The other films were; “The Maritime Silk Road (2011),” “Gold & Copper (2011),” “Fereshteh & Child (2008)” and “Here Without Me (2011).” According to the Cultural Councillor at the Iranian Embassy in Kampala, Akbar Tohidlou, the film festival aims to introduce Ugandans to a different side to the Gulf nation. “We hope to build stronger cultural bilateral ties with this festival,” he said. “We are also exploring the possibility of creating co-production treaties between Ugandan and Iranian film industries,” Tohidlou said. Tohidlou promised that there will be an exchange of films and filmmakers between the two countries beginning with next year. The acting executive director of the Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC), Jacqueline Ampaire said that there should cultural exchanges between the two countries in order to learn from each other. Ends.