“The age of Iranian cinema is over, and this industry is the closest thing to a cultural ambassador Iran has. We therefore need to nurture Iranian cinema and its future productions, ensuring that there is an urgent call of action to improve this industry,” Iranian film producer Hamid Hanari told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Looking at the news and developments coming out of the Iranian film industry over recent years, one might argue that collaborations between domestic movies and international distributors are on the rise, particularly as Iranian cinema has secured an increasingly strong position in the international arena.
Many Iranian films have enjoyed international success, notably A Separation, which won the Acadamy Award for Best Foreign-Language film in 2012. But production of films within Iran itself is declining, part of a broader decline in Iranians going to the cinema.
But Hanari stressed that Iranian cinema still has great potential despite its decline over the past few years.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Iranian film critic Mohamad Gabr-Loo said he believes that “Iranian cinema is on the right track. It is only natural that problems will arise that must be confronted, including problems with technical equipment.”
He said that production problems are one of the main issues facing Iranian cinema. Iranian filmmakers must often work with limited access to technical specialists who are familiar with the necessary equipment, as well as tightening budgets. Gabr-Loo emphasized, however, that simply spending more money on filmmaking will not fix the problem: it also requires better management and planning.
He said: “We must modernize the equipment in the country . . . to continue to allow the film industry to develop and grow.”
The Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Ali Jannati, is set to hold a number of meetings with industry specialists to discuss the current problems facing Iranian cinema. As the man ultimately responsible for the Iranian film industry, Jannati agrees that Iranian cinema is not living up to its full potential.
“Iran currently has the potential to produce a hundred films per year. However, figures for previous years reveal that the actual production figures are significantly lower than this. This has greatly damaged the creative community,” Jannati said.
Iran reopened its main film industry guild, the House of Cinema, last month—almost two years after it was closed by hardliners, state news agency IRNA reported.
The House of Cinema was behind a wave of Iranian films that have won international acclaim and awards. It was closed during the era of hardline former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Its re-opening in September under the Rouhani administration, in addition to statements promising greater tolerance on cultural issues, is a good sign for Iran’s ailing domestic film industry.
Speaking on the loosening of the Iranian government’s former tough stance on cultural expression, Gabr-Loo told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the right environment must be nurtured for authors and script writers to collaborate creatively and advance important social issues without any obstacles.”