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Iran is Alive and Well in Hamburg
by Becky Tan

The Filmfest Hamburg has a long history of supporting filmmakers from Iran. Every year Iranian directors can depend on their films showing here. Following are just some of the festival films from Iran, that we have covered in Hamburg: Baran by Majid Majidi, Delbaran by Abolfazi Jalili and The Secret Ballot by Babak Payami (all 2001) Abjad by Abolfazl Jalili and Deep Breath by Parviz Shahbazi (both 2003), Bitter Dream by Mohsen Amiryoussefi, From the Land of Silence by Salam Salur, The Lizard by Kamal Tabrizi and Stray Dogs by Marziyeh Meshkini ( all 2004), Iron Island by Mohammad Rasoulof (2005), Day Break by Hamid Rahmanian and Fireworks Wednesday by Asghar Farhadi (both 2006), As Simple as That by Reza Mir Karimi (2008), This is not a Film by Jafar Panahi (2011), and Manuscripts Don’t Burn by (again) Mohammad Rasoulof (2013).

This is just a small selection researched from 12 of our 20 years reporting from the Filmfest Hamburg. In 2001 Iranian director Majid Majidi won the festival’s Douglas Sirk Award. In 2009 as life for free and independent film-making was becoming more restricted in Iran, festival director Albert Wiederspiel and his staff wore green scarves to commemorate the latest Iranian political upheaval. The final film that year was No One Knows about Persian Cats by Bahman Ghobdai. In 2010 director Ali Samadi Ahadi showed The Green Wave. Afterwards about 100 viewers walked over to the Baseler Hof Hotel conference room for a discussion with Ahadi, and three other Iranians with connections to film and politics, as well as producer Jan Krüger.

This year we could see 24 Frames by Abbas Kiarosami (who died a few months prior to the showing), Malaria by Parviz Shahbazi, A Man of Integrity by Mohammad Rasoulof, and Ohne Datum und Unterschrift by Vahid Jalilvand. Tehran Tabu is by Ali Soozandeh, who immigrated to Germany in 1995; his film is considered to be German-Austrian. The Film Förderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein generously financially supported the making of both A Man of Integrity and Tehran Tabu.

The present situation of director Mohammad Rasoulof is an example of the difficult situation, which is not improving for Iranian filmmakers. Rasoulof, born 1972, managed to set up residency in Hamburg, where his wife and daughter live since 2012. In 2013, while he was in Iran, his passport and computer were confiscated and he was sentenced to a jail sentence. Now, again in 2017, his passport has been confiscated in Iran and he cannot leave the country. As a result, there was no chance that he could represent his film A Man of Integrity at the festival. None of his films have been shown in Iran.

A Man of Integrity
Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran

Reza lives with his wife and child in a village in northern Iran. He raises goldfishes. Even in this small town, there is a net of political corruption, which forces small farmers into a dependence upon the ruling politicians and a rich factory owner. Reza is determined to stay out of this controlling hand, which also includes the mosque. But one day all of his fish are dead. Does he have a choice? Is this the penalty for seeking independence? His beautiful wife, Hadis, is a teacher. She supports him completely, and is especially helpful with her skill at driving around the area to pay the bribes necessary to get Reza out of jail. He plans to leave this area, to “go someplace where nobody knows your religion.” Rasoulof has no qualms about saying it the way it is. His film won first prize at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section.