Festival Director Amin Palangi talks about the Persian Film Festivals new programming and his film, Love Marriage in Kabul
This is the 4th year of the festival, how have things changed and what can audiences expect?
This year, like every year, the festival has a series of feature and short films. But what has changed this year is that we have included number ofdocumentaries, which I think adds a different perspective to the whole program. Also, this year we have a session of short films that is being held at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, so that is also a new addition to the festival.
A number of countries are facing serious and dark circumstances with wars raging across the region, is this translating to film and what are the issues that are informing filmmaking in the festival?
Well, Iran for instance has been relatively war free, as far physical wars with weapons go. But there are other kinds of wars that are always informing Iranian cinema. And in fact art in general has become a kind of fighting against those wars. In other places like Afghanistan the war has been going on for so long that it has become part of people’s lives. Films in our selection on Afghanistan, especially documentaries, definitely reflect this. For example, this is what we see in the backdrop of both Frame by Frame and Love Marriage in Kabul.
The festival brings together Persian films from different countries, what are the differences you are seeing between the diverse ranges of filmmakers?
I think the styles and content are not comparable. For example, Iran has a very established cinema that has a worldwide reputation. But, what’s coming out of Afghanistan, especially by Afghan filmmakers, is yet to be established purely because the circumstances of the country have prevented this aspect to develop.
Persian countries and the lives of their people could be seen as somewhat a mystery to mainstream Australia and other western audiences – do you think this is creating an interest and demand in films from the region?
Definitely, but neither myself or the other people involved in the festival want to promise the kind of unveiling or unraveling that some audiences might expect, simply because we want to present the fact life is same everywhere despite differences.
The festival incudes many factual films, considering the current climate in countries like Iran and Afghanistan, it can be a risky business make a film; what challenges have this year's filmmakers faced?
I can’t speak on behalf of individual filmmakers that we are presenting but I can say that yes making films in Iran, epecially, is slightly more difficult. Generally there are many factors to think about and the films usually go through many different stages of approval from the story stages to the actual screening stage. I would not call it a risky business because as much as hindrance to the filmmakers because unless you are really crossing certain lines – which are very clear for filmmakers – you are usually fine.
On the extreme end, some Persian filmmakers have been threatened with death and others have tragically been killed for their work. With this brutal reality in mind, how do you approach the programming and does this affect your freedom in selecting and finding films for the festival?
Well, some filmmakers have faced extreme conditions for their art, but this does not always make their films any better or worse. In our selection I try go for films that matter and tell a story as opposed to a film because of the fame of its director for two reasons. One because I don’t want to contribute the sensationalising that goes on usually around these events, and two because the story matters to me more. While in the programming I am concerned with representing diverse filmmakers, I try to not let myself be influenced by lots of external factors.
You also have a documentary in the festival, Love Marriage in Kabul, can you tell us how the film came about?
The film was in the process since 2006 and it came about when I made a short film about women’s self-burning as a form of suicide and realized that may be it contributed to already existing negative dark facts that are constantly represented about Afghanistan. So, I wanted to make a happier film, and that is how the idea of this film which is about love and marriage, came along.
You backed this film using your own savings; can you tell us what the driving force behind your passion for the film is?
There is so much negative material out there about Afghanistan and one of my passions has been to counter those ideas. My drive for this film was because I wanted it to contribute to the way Afghanistan is seen in a positive way and more importantly I wanted this film to be a contribution to Mahboba’s Promise, the charity that features in the film.
The film follows the extraordinary quest of Afghan-Australian woman, Mahboba Rawi, she herself has the character that challenges a lot of stereotypes and definitions of Australian-Persian women – is she as powerful off camera?
She is in fact amazingly powerful and it is a pleasure knowing her. She is definitely a character who breaks a lot of stereotypes.
The film is mostly shot in Afghanistan, was it difficult to film and what challenges did you face?
Yes, it was difficult but what made it easier for us was the small crew – it was only my then partner, Sanaz Fotouhi and myself. Having a woman on the team also helped since she was able to go into spaces and get stories that I was not able to as a man.
The film deals with many difficult subjects including the representation of Afghan people in particular that of its women and arranged marriages. Do you think Love Marriage in Kabul somehow holds an answer to the perception of arranged marriages to western audiences, even though many unanswerable questions might remain?
Well, the answer to this question is very complicated and cannot be answered in such a short space of time. Neither do I claim that the film answers it, but I do hope that is sheds some small light on the matter. At least that is what we all hope for.
Thanks for your time!
You can book tickets to Amin's film, Love Marriage in Kabul on this link: http://persianfilmfestival.com/feature-film/love-marriage-in-kabul/
Screening At: Palace Norton Street
Date and Time: 2:00 PM | September 6, 2015
Original Title: Love Marriage in Kabul
Country: Afghanistan - Australia
Language: Dari with English Subtitles
Runtime: 85 min
Writer: Amin Palangi
Producer: Pat Fiske
Mahboba Rawi, a strong-willed Afghan-Australian woman and the founder of Mahboba’s Promise, has dedicated her life to helping orphans and widows in Afghanistan. Abdul, one of these orphans, is in love with Fatemeh, the girl next door. The two have been exchanging romantic letters for over a year and hope to marry one day. But Fatemeh’s father has decided to marry her off to anyone who can offer a large sum of money as her dowry. Devastated, Abdul is hoping when Mahboba arrives for her yearly visit to Kabul, she will help him again.
However, Fatemeh’s father makes demands beyond anyone’s expectations. He won’t let the marriage happen unless Mahboba pays him $10,000 or finds a wife for his eldest son to replace Fatemeh’s role in the household. With nothing to Abdul’s name, the fate of the couple depends entirely on Mahboba’s ability to meet or negotiate the father’s terms. But she only has one month and limited resources.
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