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ROME 2021 Review: The Will to See
by Camillo De Marco, Cineuropa 29/10/2021
A world tour of forgotten wars and urgent humanitarian crises from the perspective of French writer, philosopher and activist Bernard-Henri Lévy.
You can say what you like about Bernard-Henri Lévy, but not that he is a salon intellectual. Some old images included in the documentary The Will to See - co-directed by the writer, philosopher and activist with Marc Roussell and presented as an event at the 2021 Rome Film Festival - portray him in hot moments of recent history as a direct witness to conflicts and humanitarian crises; at 22, he was already in Bangladesh, and then in the 1980s, alongside Joan Baez or Liv Ullmann in Cambodia and Thailand.
"Writing, talking, but first of all going on the field," he said. Inspired by his book Sur la Route des Hommes Sans Noms (On the Road of the Nameless Men), this new film testifies, after 25 years of written reportage, to BHL's (as he is called in France) desire to capture his travels in images.
The philosopher without borders calls this documentary a 'world tour of forgotten wars,' and it really does feel like a descent into hell, with images that are often shocking, unsterilised by television censorship, showing the worst of mankind. It all began with a proposal from Olivier Royant, editor of Paris Match, who in the middle of lockdown offered BHL a series of investigations.
The doc begins with a plea for help for Christians in Nigeria, massacred by Boko Haram, the African Isis, and abandoned by a government poisoned by radical Islamism. In the Middle Belt, BHL meets Jumai Victor, who has seen houses burn and her husband and four children die before her eyes. She is pregnant, so her torturers limit themselves to butchering her arm. At the end of this journey, one is left with the terrible feeling of being back in 2007, when Khartoum's mounted militias sowed death in the villages of Darfur or South Sudan, or even longer ago, in Rwanda. BHL returns to Paris, feeling disconnected, not understanding the anger of the yellow vests.
Next trip: destination Syrian Kurdistan, to Rojava, the de facto autonomous region on the front line against Isis and which "the West shamefully abandoned in October 2019 when Erdogan invaded."BHL meets leader Aldar Khalil, "the invisible inspirer of the Kurdish democratic revolution."
On the frontline, he meets young Kurdish female fighters. "Equality with men is achieved through the weapons in their hands," he reflects bitterly. He thinks of the Amazon warriors of Queen Penthesilea, who defend cities in Homer's Iliad. He moves on to another forgotten war: the "low-intensity" one in eastern Ukraine, in the Donbass, 450 km of frontline "against elite units working for Putin." How do they resist, BHL asks, the world's second largest army? "'The aberration of a war in Europe."
And then the return to Africa, to Somalia. In Mogadishu, "a ghost town, abandoned to the warlords." In Dhaka, Bangladesh, he meets Sheikh Hasina, "the only woman on Earth who rules a Muslim country," and then visits the refugee camps of Cox's Bazar, where the pandemic has worsened the situation. He returns to a Paris deserted by lockdown, "but more important than being at home is being near those who have no home."
He leaves for Lesbos, Greece. The Moria refugee camp is the most inhuman in Europe. Then on to Libya, which brought him so much criticism after his controversial documentary The Oath of Tobruk.
Finally, Afghanistan, where he meets the leader of the anti-Taliban resistance Ahmad Massoud, the son of the national hero Commander Massoud, killed by Al Qaeda. Why this incessant travelling? To the class of Parisian students who meet him, BHL answers that it is "the desire to transmit knowledge." You never get used to it, you are always a newcomer to abuse and horror.
The documentary was produced by Kristina Larsen with Madison Films, in co-production with France 2 Cinéma and the participation of France Télévisions, Canal+ and Ciné+.
THE WILL TO SEE
by Bernard-Henri Lévy, Marc Roussel international title: The Will to See original title: Une autre idée du monde country: France year: 2021 genre: documentary directed by: Bernard-Henri Lévy, Marc Roussel film run: 92' screenplay: Bernard-Henri Lévy producer: Kristina Larsen production: Madison Films, France 2 Cinéma, France Télévisions, Canal+, Ciné+
Chess of the Wind: Rediscovered Iranian Drama is a Revelation (LFF Review)
Screened only twice (once for an empty theater) before it was banned in 1979, Mohammad Reza Aslani’s rediscovered and newly restored film Chess of the Wind (Shatranj-e baad) was destined to be lost forever. That is, until six years ago, when Aslani’s daughter found the original print in an antique shop in Tehran.Still banned in Iran, she had to smuggle the film out using a private delivery service straight to Paris. Once there, the film was restored in gorgeous 4k thanks to Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project and the Cineteca di Bologna.
Not only is the tale of finding and restoring Chess of the Wind supremely satisfying, but the film itself is a revelation: a sensual, politically charged tale of aristocracy and class struggle through the lens of sumptuously crafted gothic storytelling. The film is dense with color and ornate set designs, indulging in a similarly elegant visual style as the works of Italian director Luchino Visconti. The camera moves sparingly throughout, clearly capturing the near-overwhelming decadence of the locations. When the camera does move, it usually signifies a shift in the narrative, newly revealed information, often spelling doom for the characters.
These characters, as well as two adopted brothers, all eventually find themselves tangled in a web of murder, deceit, lust, and rivalry. While the pacing is often fairly slow, the narrative twists and turns in astonishing ways, leading to a shocking and surprisingly dreamlike climax. Each actor gives a convincing performance, but it is really Fakhri Khorvash and Shohreh Aghdashloo who steal the show. Khorvash portrays an elusive, mysterious figure who may be capable of more than she lets on, and Aghdashloo gives the maid an innocent, dependable veneer that belies possible ulterior motives.
Chess of the Windis a stunning visual experience backed by a terrific and eerie score, courtesy of Sheyda Gharachedaghi, as well as a cast of determined actors. The film reaches revelatory heights due to its insightful and progressive political commentary.
Aslani depicts a society controlled by greed and capital: in fact, capital is the motivating force for many of the characters. The film even quotes the Quran at the very start, stating that competition in worldly gains breaks people apart.
Aslani is heavily critiquing what he sees as a money-obsessed, competition-obsessed society where someone’s value is based on what they own. Furthermore, Aslani takes aim at the patriarchal figure of the central family, showing his vicious dominance and misogyny and how he is but one aspect of an oppressive, patriarchal society.
Lastly, I am a fan but by no means an expert of Iranian cinema, and yet I have never seen an Iranian film with an explicitly gay character. The empathetic representation alone makes Chess of the Windan essential watch, but it is also bolstered by lavish visuals, compelling commentary, and a stellar cast.
Chess of the Wind (Shatranj-e baad) is currently screening digitally at the BFI London Film Festival, and will be available to watch on the BFI Player until Tuesday 13 October 2020.
Winners of the 2021 ‘Sepanta Awards’ 14th Annual Iranian Film Festival – San Francisco September 18-19, 2021
Welcome to the 14th Annual Iranian Film Festival – San Francisco, the first independent Iranian film festival outside of Iran. This year, the festival presented 60 films from Iran, USA, United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Germany, France, China, Bulgaria, Tunisia…
We are proud to continue our mission to discover and support the next generation of Iranian filmmakers living and working around the world, while we honor the veteran filmmakers for their distinguished careers. Please join us to celebrate the outstanding works of Iranian filmmakers..
Please Note: Due to the current pandemic situation, the festival has been Virtual this year.
September 18-19, 2021
While some specifics of Iranian culture are on display, African Violet is universal in its approach to everyday people and their daily lives. -- Susan Wloszczyna (AWFJ Women on Film)
Best Director:Mona Zandi Haghighi Best Actor: Amir Hossein Fathi for The Slaughterhouse Best Actress:Fatemah Motamed Aria Best Screenplay: Hamidreza Bababeigi for African Violet Best Cinematography: Mehdi Rezaei for KulbarF Best Documentary: Duchenne Boys by Sohrab Kavir Best Short Film:Tattoo Best Director for a Short Film:Farhad Delaram for Tattoo Best Screenplay for a Short Film: Meysam Fard for A Simple Examination Best Documentary Short: Nahma by Masoud Mirzaei Best Actor in a Short Film: Babak Karimi for Muncher Best Actress in a Short Film: Mahshid Ajam for 2 Weeks Later Best Cinematography for a Short Film: Ali Eskandari for To Be Best Children’s Short Film: Bread & Dementia by Kaveh Azizi Best Music Video: One More Kiss by Aydin Aryainejad Best Animation Film: Stars in the Rain by Sara Namjoo Best Experimental Film: The Phoenix by Farzin Nobarani
The history of animation films in Iran goes back to the 1950s, decades after it was invented. Since then, despite all the obstacles from lack of equipment to lack of knowledge, animation films have still were made by aspiring filmmakers all the way through the present time.
With the latest technology and dedicated filmmakers, the highest number of animation films are being made today in Iran. Iranian Film Festival dedicates its Spotlight on Animation Cinema in Iran, created by a group of talented artists by showing: Imaginary scene, Wavelength, A Goodbye, Crisis, Lines of Exile, Goodbye Earth, Nail, Stars in the Rain, The Letter, House…
Aside from the fiction, the Iranian Film Festival pays special attention to the documentary genre with some of the best young talents Iranian cinema can offer. Films such as: Simin Behbahani: Love at Eighty [a retrospective of Simin Behbahani’s life and unique poetry], Ill Fate [about women in Iranian cinema before the Revolution], The United States of Elie Tahari [about the fashion designer and mogul Elie Tahari], Duchenne Boys [an epic quest to form a virtual football team made up of young sufferers of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy]…
The genre of short films, if we can call it that, is a platform for the filmmakers to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end in a short amount of time. While they can be under time pressure to tell their whole story, but it gives them the time management to work within that time frame. For that reason, the short films are always the jewel of filmmaking, and we are happy to present a fraction of a large number of short films we received this year, among them: Muncher, Hiss…, Closed Circuit, The Phoenix, To Be, The Dagger, For the Clean Up, Tattoo, A Simple Examination, The Shadow, Psycho, The Sign, Witness, Flasher, Demonstration…
The Shorts Programs are scheduled on Saturday, September 18 and Sunday, September 19 at 12:00 PM.
Music & Dance Films
This year, the Iranian Film Festival received the highest number of music videos showing that the music is alive and well in the hearts of Iranian people specially the younger generation. Among those chosen are: The Goodbye [directed by Arman Karkhanei], Sanam [directed by Nemat Zareian], Entangled [directed by Sam Javadi], I Fell in Love [directed by Sobhan Farzaneh], Daya [directed by Maryam Yadegari], Capriccio [directed by Dareios Haji Hashemi], One More Kiss [directed by Aydin Aryainejad], Nahma [directed by Masoud Mirzaei]…
Films for Children & Young Adults
For the past few years, the Iranian Film Festival – San Francisco, has paid more attention to the films made by or about the children and young adults. These are some of the films that are selected for this year: Permission Ms., Present [about a boy who can’t afford to go to school to help his family], The Kids [about a teenage boy and girl who are brother and sister but want to separate from each other], White Clad [about a young boy who tries to save someone’s life], Bread & Dementia [about a small girl who loses her grandfather who suffers from dementia], Behind the Glasses [about a skyscraper glass cleaner who finds a way to communicate with some children in a hospital]…
Iranian Film Festival- San Francisco holds a contest for its annual poster in order to introduce some of the best graphic artists working in the field in Iran. The winner of this year’s poster contest is Rasool Haghjoo, who created his design based on 12 blue Lotus leaves [the flower of life], which was a symbol of old Persia, and a camera lens.
When the Iranian Film Festival decided to give awards, the first name came to mind was Abdolhossein Sepanta [1907-1969], the father of sound in Iranian cinema. Sepanta, was also a director, screenwriter and producer who made The Lor Girl (1931), Ferdowsi, Shirin-o-Farhaad, Black Eyes, and Leyli o Majnun (1936). In honor of his role in Iranian cinema, the Iranian Film Festival chose his name for its awards in 2013, and presents the Sepanta Award every year in various categories.
Support the Festival
If you like what we do, to continue bringing the best of independent films made by or about Iranians from around the world, support our efforts by sponsoring, advertising, and your contributions. We, Iranians, need to have a strong voice in our host country by unity and representing the best talents any community can offer. This support can be in variety of ways but for sure it benefits the Iranian community.
We know there are many talented Iranian artists out there, aside from those in film that can share their talent with us in visual art. If you are a photographer, graphic artist, musician…join the festival and participate in whatever capacity the festival can offer you. Drop us a note and be a part of our festival.
VENICE 2021: Giuseppe Tornatore’s tribute to Morricone is a gargantuan, occasionally exhausting, homage, taking in an exceptional musical journey
The first frame of Giuseppe Tornatore’s homage to the genius of Ennio Morricone, titled simply Ennio and premiering out of competition at the 78th Venice International Film Festival, shows a metronome clicking into life. This trick, seen in many a music documentary, is far from original, and neither is the denomination of “genius”. For the next 168 minutes, though, one can live with it.
Address him as “maestro”. Refrain from the expression “spaghetti western”. These were two of the (ahem) fistful of instructions conveyed to those few chosen ones given an interview appointment with Ennio Morricone. They would be received in his renaissance palace home, a stone’s throw from Piazza Venezia in the heart of Rome, surrounded by a cacophony of traffic.
In this stately oasis, he created his own cacophonies, mainly for the cinema. In the world of film, he scored soundtracks throughout seven decades, for titles such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Danger: Diabolik, A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, 1900, Days of Heaven, The Mission, Once Upon a Time in America, The Untouchables, The Hateful Eight and some 400-500 others. The very last one, Correspondence, was directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, who, after 13 Morricone-scored films, would give the maestro one more task: to receive him in his own home, filming him telling him about himself and his work. This constitutes the foundation of Ennio, a gargantuan tapestry, abundantly quilted with film and sound clips taking in a musical journey, some will claim, on a par with Bach, Mozart and Verdi, “but in his own time”, as is declared by at least one voice here.
From the music side, there’s Joan Baez, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Bruce Springsteen, Pat Metheny and Quincy Jones. Some, like Metheny, who aside from his career as a jazz guitarist also scores films, provide interesting thoughts, while others add little more than a repetition of the “g” word. Missing, regrettably, are Burt Bacharach, whose own musical journey may be the closest of all to Morricone’s (and vice versa), as well as, more understandably, those no longer alive, not least that most iconic fellow worker Sergio Leone.
Being an Italian film about an Italian artist, many a compatriot shows up, among them pop singers like Edoardo Vianello, whose early 1960s hits like “Abbronzatissima” and “Guarda come dondolo” sported some gorgeously innovative Morricone arrangements. Throughout this occasionally exhausting multitude of eulogising heads, the maestro himself remains comfortably seated in his armchair of choice in his renaissance palace, where he calmly, with as sharp a memory as they come, revisits the exquisite minutiae of his compositions, humming, chirping and “whau-whauing” his way through an exceptional treasure trove. “I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like his music,” says Eastwood. Yup, one can live with the “g” word.
Ennio is an Italian-Belgian-Chinese-Japanese production staged by Piano B Produzioni, Potemkino, Fu Works, Terras, Gaga and Blossoms Island Pictures, with sales overseen by Block 2 Distribution.
An interview with Asghar Farhadi A Hero, the most successful at 2021 Cannes so far
“A Hero,” which sees Farhadi returning to filmmaking in Iran, is about a man named Rahim who is in prison because of an unpaid debt. While on a two-day release, he and the woman he loves hatch a plan to try and convince the creditor to let him off the hook. But it spirals out of control due to social media, which plays an important part in this drama exposing the pitfalls of media manipulation in Iran’s repressive regime but also, by extension, the world. Farhadi spoke to Variety in Cannes about his concerns over social media and his certainty that the best antidote to the disconnect it can create is cinema.
How did ‘A Hero’ originate? From time to time in the news in Iran you get stories about very average people who in their daily lives do something that is very altruistic. And that humane way of being makes them very noticeable in society for a few days, and then they are forgotten. The story of the rise and fall of these kinds of people was really what interested me.
Has social media manipulation been on your mind in recent years, especially as it pertains to Iran? When I started working on the story I wasn’t so aware of social media. I developed that aspect when I realized that this is something so pervasive in every society around the world these days. It has become such a powerful tool of communication in every society and there are no borders. It’s the same in Iran and the rest of the world.
But I think that what’s specific in Iran is that because there are tensions in society between different groups, opinions, ideologies, it becomes a tool in the hands of [groups of]people to confront the others. That’s the reason why it plays such as major part in the development of this story.
In ‘A Hero’ media manipulation intersects with the Iranian justice system. Are you concerned about this manipulation when it comes to putting people in jail? Well, it’s not even at the level of being a concern anymore. It’s a fact. It’s just the way we are living. I think it’s not even relevant to question this. It’s just the way we are. And the way we express things to each other. What I found interesting in the issues of this film is to see that all institutions and social groups use this tool. It’s a way of opening up to the other. But what I found paradoxical and interesting in this story is that instead of being a way of communicating and opening up to the other, it’s the exact opposite: a way of hiding and dissimulating things.
What’s also interesting is the speed [of social media]and its very few words: the very small space that you need and use to present a piece of news, a person, a story. It goes very quickly and very often the situation is more complex; the person is more complex. You need more space to actually present the nuances and the complexity of the situation. When you do it with so few words then of course it becomes the perfect space for misunderstanding.
‘The Salesman’ star Taraneh Alidoosti last year risked going to jail after she shared a video on Twitter of a member of Iran’s plainclothes ‘morality police’ insulting and attacking a woman on the street for not wearing the hijab headscarf. Tweeting can be dangerous. This has to do with the fact that Iran is a repressive country in which you have no freedom to speak up and say what you think. When you have a medium like this which gives you the opportunity to express your feelings and what people have kept inside for years, of course they burst out. I think Iran must be on top of the list of countries in which the content of the conversation on social media is more about social and political issues. I’ve been researching this subject. Once when I was in Hong Kong I asked people: “What do you mainly talk about on social media?” They said: “It’s mainly personal or about cooking or more random everyday life issues.” Of course now with the troubles with China they also use social media for politics, but not as much as in Iran where I think people are really using it as an opportunity to finally speak up and connect on issues that they felt had been repressed.
In the U.S. one of the biggest social media manipulators in politics has been Donald Trump who basically prevented you from going to the U.S. to attend the Oscars. Do you think something will change with President Biden, especially when it comes to U.S. policy in Iran? I think extremes are very similar, no matter what country or political systems. Of course having Joe Biden in place makes the whole world a better place. I have no doubt about that. But as for Iran and trying to predict whether it’s going to help things with Iran, well while Trump was having such extreme behavior and reaction towards Iran, there was the same kind of extremism in Iran. So, of course they were on the opposite side, but their way of behaving and reflecting was the same. And in Iran the same people are still in power. So there should be a change also on the Iranian side in order to make sure that there can be an improvement on both sides.
How do you think the social media disconnect is affecting cinema? I had a discussion with a friend a few days ago and he was saying that this flow of information, images and sound that is pouring on all individuals nowadays is going to kill cinema, because it’s a competitor that cinema cannot catch up with. But I think that it’s quite the opposite because it’s really the reverse side of the use of images and sound with speed. Cinema is the medium that can take time to develop, to show different aspects, to show the complexities, the nuances. And to take this time. That’s exactly the reason why I think social media is in no way a threat to cinema. What you don’t have in social media is time for reflection and being able to see the different aspects and dimensions of a question. For that there is cinema.