Today, Tuesday, November 25th, at Warehouse C of the Thessaloniki Port, in the framework of the 44th Thessaloniki International Film Festival, the press conference of prominent Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who participates in the New Horizons section took place. Dimitri Eipides, the Artistic Director of the New Horizons section welcomed Mr. Panahi and said, “I’m extremely happy and honored that this year my personal friend and distinguished Iranian director, as well as member of the International Competition Jury, Jafar Panahi, has accepted our invitation and is a guest of New Horizons and the Thessaloniki Film Festival. He has received numerous awards as he continues his spectacular international career with every new film he makes. Since my first encounter with Iranian cinema a few years ago, I’m thrilled by the progress it has made, with more and more viewers worldwide, sharing the experience of a cinema that is alive, provocative, sensitive and original. Jafar Panahi is one of the most important representatives of Iranian cinema today”.
“A great honor”
Jafar Panahi expressed his joy for the participation of his film “Crimson Gold” in the 44th Thessaloniki Film Festival and said he feels honored to be a member of the International Jury. He also spoke about another great Iranian director, Abbas Kiarostami, and the differences in the way they work. “There is nothing strange about the differences in our work. I think that it’s part of the allure of Iranian cinema, which during the last 10-12 years has become internationally recognized. This is also in part due to the younger generation of cinematographers. My collaboration with Kiarostami is proof of our good intentions”. Mr. Panahi also spoke about Dimitris Eipidis saying that, “He has greatly contributed to the recognition of Iranian cinema during recent years and for this we owe him our thanks”.
The political situation in Iran
“Predicaments have always troubled Iran, not just in the past two years, but always. Sometimes a few films are approved for screening, although, under ‘strange circumstances’. These ‘strange’ circumstances, though, are not essential enough to approve the self- expression and presentation of the artists’ ideologies. The last two years have seen stricter policies and regulations for the screening of our films and our work in general. Unfortunately, even to this day, the film ‘The circle’ has not been shown in Iran. My film, ‘Crimson Gold’, as well, has still not been approved for screening in Iran. However, on a personal level, I’m not troubled by these predicaments. I’m not discouraged by the fact that my films are banned, nor does this stop me from making new ones”. “In their attempt to level public opinion, regimes behave in a dictatorial manner. As a matter of fact, under these circumstances, they refuse to accept artistic expression and therefore they impose sanctions. The situation being the way it is, I refuse to become a politically inclined director. My films are exclusively humanistic. The regime is afraid of this type of art and especially of the public presentation of social concerns. Social problems certainly contain political issues but this seems to trouble some people. The fact that I emphasize that I am not a politically inclined cinematographer does not mean that I do not make references to political extensions of social issues. I am not attempting to propose solutions to the problems. On the contrary, I merely present the problems that are an extension of the politics in Iran. Unfortunately, anything against the regime’s beliefs becomes its adversary”, Jafar Panahi added.
“Crimson Gold” and the social classes in modern-day Iran
“When the citizens of a state suffer from the wrong economic policies, the state is impelled towards impulsive actions. This creates different social classes based on financial status with large gaps between them. The result of these economic policies is the disappearance of the middle class. Now there are only two classes in my country: the rich and poor; the poor, of course, being the majority”, stated Mr. Panahi.
He went on to speak about a personal concern: to avoid repetition. “If I repeat myself in a film, it will be the end of my career. I have the ability to create one or two films a year but I avoid doing that. I shoot approximately one film every three years. If the gap between them is smaller, I believe that one film will follow the other, and that leads to repetition. The differentiation of my films is due to my patience and the fact that I elaborate my new topics in order to create a new film after a reasonable amount of time. It’s true that we suffer from severe censorship in my country. The most dangerous thing, though, would be to censor myself if I were afraid of the penalties. If I do this, I will have nothing to show. Fortunately, though, there is a small portion of the independent Iranian press that has taken a liking to me and I have been able to take advantage of certain situations and shoot new films. From the outside, closed governments seem tough. From the inside, though, it’s easy to maneuver around and find ways to get things done and express yourself”.
Speaking about the way he envisions the future of Iran, Jafar Panahi claimed that Iranian citizens do not desire revolution. “Revolution essentially means the disposal of certain people and this is not what the Iranian people want. They believe in the peaceful coexistence of different views and ideologies. If this isn’t achievable peacefully they will most likely revolt. However, after 120 years of pursuing democracy, the Iranian people’s experience has taught them that revolution does not bring the desired results. Most people want democratic elections. I hope this is feasible. I am forced to hope for a better future for my country, given the fact that hope is the fuel for a better life. I am sure that Iranians will accomplish their objectives”, Mr. Panahi concluded.