Iranian filmmaker Bahman Farmanara wrote, directed, and stars in this autobiographical drama of an artist reaching beyond the limits of censorship.
Farjami (Farmanara) is a movie director living in Iran who has not been permitted to make a picture since the Post-Revolutionary Censor Board came into effect two decades earlier.
Cast: Roya Nonahali, Reza Kianian, Vali Shirandami, Parivash Nazarieh, Firouz Behjat Mohammadi, Hossein Kasbian, Darioush Asadzadeh, Ebrahim Abadi, Mahtaj Nojomi, Maliheh Nazari, Morteza Zarabi, Zohreh Hamidi, Loric Minasian, Mohammad Abhari, Mohammad Kani, Asadolah Yekta, Leila Paiani, Asghar Bichareh, Nima Gorgin, Leila Fatahi and Bahman Farmanara
Director, screenwriter: Bahman Farmanara
Production: Morteza Shayeste (Hedayat Film, Fazlollah Yousefpour)
Photography: Mahmud Kalari
Music: Ahmad Pezhman
Editing: Abbas Ganjavi
Art Director: Zhila Mehrjui
Sound: Parviz Abnar
Special Effects: Abbas Shoqi
Make-up Artist: Mehrdad ShekarAbi, Atefe Razavi
New York, London (World Cinema), Toronto (Contemporary World Cinema), Vancouver, Rotterdam, Berlinale (Forum)
"Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine is the product of the liberal political atmosphere of the past couple of years, and that is why I have tried my film to be a mirror reflecting what is happening to us.
It is a bitter film, but not without hope. It puts death and life against each other, with life continuing all be it with bitterness.
With this film I have discarded the traditional narrative conventions, and taking a cue from Nathalie Sarraute, I have allowed each event to tell its own story.
I hope that after a twenty years of silence, I have not forgotten how to speak to the people of my country. I hope their reception will give me courage to move to my next film."
* 8 Crystal Simorgh for Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine as the BEST FILM, and for the BEST DIRECTOR, BEST SCREENPLAY, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Make-up, Best Original Score, at the 18th Fajr International Film Festival (Iran, Feb. 2000).
* Special Jury Prize to Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine at the 24th Montreal World Film Festival (Canada / Sep. 2000)
* Special Audience Prize to Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine at the Art Center of Chicago. (USA /2000)
Highly personal film portrays a stagnant Iran -- Friday, July 20, 2001
By WILLIAM ARNOLD
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER MOVIE CRITIC
In 1978, Bahman Farmanara was one of the brightest young lights of Iranian cinema, the director of two internationally acclaimed features -- "House of Ghamar Khanoom" and "Prince Ehtajab" -- and head of his own film studio.
But the following year's Islamic Revolution cut his career short just as he had finished his third feature, "Tall Shadows of the Wind." Its release was halted, Farmanara was barred from making further films, and he soon fled to Canada.
He eventually returned to Iran, and now, at age 59, the loosening political grip there has finally allowed him to direct -- and star in -- "Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine," an absorbing, if melancholy, drama that is his first film in more than two decades.
He more or less plays himself: an overweight, chain-smoking, long frustrated director with serious heart problems who obsessively feels the presence of death not far around the corner, but can't get past the injury done his life and career by the zealots of Tehran.
He is, however, being allowed to make a documentary for Japanese television about funeral customs in Iran, and he uses the pretext to revisit many of his old filmmaking buddies -- all fellow victims of the regime -- and ponder the phenomenon of death.
As he muddles his way through several traumatic days, his encounters with friends, family members and strangers become increasingly bizarre and dreamlike until it finally becomes completely surreal -- his own personal version of Fellini's "8 1/2."
In the process, we glimpse the total failure of the Islamic Revolution, which has created a society where law is corrupt, all business is conducted through the back door, and the once-strong family unit has all but crumbled under the weight of totalitarianism.
Despite its hopeful title ("jasmine" symbolizes the new life that triumphs over the "camphor" of death), it's an understandably bitter movie, and one that's not afraid to try our patience with talky scenes, unclear relationships and subtitles that often vanish in white backgrounds.
But Farmanara -- who looks and sounds like an Iranian Philippe Noiret -- is a surprisingly appealing star, and his movie is every bit as subversive as the Islamic censors of the '80s and '90s must have feared it would be: a devastating look at a stagnant world.
The film also communicates, with great clarity and precision, the specific dilemma of Farmanara's own "futile" existence: the quiet horror of the artist who is denied the aching personal need and basic human right of self-expression.