“The position of women in Iran’s society” is this year’s theme at the third edition of the Iranian Film Festival (IFF) in Rotterdam. It is time to meet the woman behind the festival. Founder and managing director Parwin Mirrahimy (1980) proudly elaborates on the success story of what might be the most appreciated film festival in Europe for independent Iranian cinema.
Parwin is in a middle of a conversation with one of the IFF volunteers in café de Balie in Amsterdam, when I arrive too late and all whet due to another Dutch September rain storm. Like a committed and skilled manager who is in the business for years, she delegates tasks and preparations for the Iranian Film Festival. It is a lot of work to organize a three day long festival while having a fulltime job. As a program manager at an idealistic organization she unites people of different cultural backgrounds by introducing art and film-related projects. Parwin speaks enthusiastically about the variety she is going to offer in the program of the IFF 2008.
She was only 5 months old when her parents brought her to The Netherlands. Since they did not want to cause cultural confusion at such a young age, they gave her a Dutch upbringing, but always held her close to her Iranian roots by having telephone conversations with her family in Iran. At the age of 9 she saw her first Iranian movie, which instantly caused her fascination for Iranian cinema. At the end of her study Film and Television Sciences in Amsterdam she wrote her final thesis on the development of Iranian film since the Islamic revolution and the implementation of censorship. This way she made an in-depth study of the Iranian cinema and was deeply touched by the drive of independent movie makers who managed to express themselves in their own original way despite of the many restrictions and limitations.
Her fascination for Iranian cinema and her wish to share this with others inspired her to realize a film presentation in 2006 at the age of 26, while having very little experience of organizing such an event. “I learned a lot through those experiences. It was a great success eventually and the Iranian public appreciated it very much. But I had to learn from it by making many mistakes.”
As one of her beginner’s mistakes she says: “I was so naïve to think that I would receive funds by writing a single nice letter. As a response I received a rather surprised letter back asking me if I would be so kind to first fill out a pile of forms, register a foundation, open an account, etc, etc. At the end all worked out fine.” It definitely worked out fine considering the program she was able to present at the IFF 2006, with films such as 20 Fingers (Mania Akbari, 2006) the documentary Nose, Iranian Style (Mehrdad Oskouei, 2005) and Tehran 7 A.M (Amir Shahab Razavian, 2003).
Parwin invests much time and energy in the IFF and has travelled to Iran four times already in order to stay in touch with the Farabi Cinema Foundation. “I think it’s very important to have a professional approach and I am very pleased with the many help I receive from volunteers who work for the IFF with me.”
The following year (2007) the Iranian Film Festival grew from a one-day film presentation to a three-day film festival, once again with much success. “I am very careful when choosing the movies. I don’t think it’s important to show the biggest movies by the most famous movie makers, but to give young and starting movie makers a chance as well. I do take some risks, but it’s more important to me to include the works of young Iranian movie makers and artists. Sometimes it’s their first movie, sometimes it’s not entirely perfect, but it’s an honest and sincere story they bring across.”
When it comes to music, the IFF offers much variety. In 2006 Navá Music and Jan Pieter van der Giessen performed, in 2007 the visitors were surprised with a guest performance of Mohsen Namjoo and a little later they all stood up and danced on their theatre chairs to the music of “Caspian Hat Dance.”
“With the IFF I try to build a bridge between Iran and the West. Sometimes the program of the IFF presents critical views on life in Iran and sometimes the views are a bit lighter. I try to keep a balance.” Especially after showing the movie Mainline (Rakhshan Bani-Etemad en Mohsen Abdolvahab, 2006) Parwin heard visitors saying they found the message rather critical. “This year I’ve paid more attention to this matter by trying to find a balance in the movies we present at the IFF 2008. I’ve also included the movie Tehran: Another Side (Sam Ali Kashani, 2008) in the festival program. It’s going to be a Dutch premiere! The story is about a young Iranian man who is raised in Los Angeles and visits Iran for the first time. The movie shows his personal experiences, and his views.” Parwin reaches a large public with the IFF, including both young and old visitors, Iranians from the Benelux region and also (approximately 50%) Dutch natives.
Parwin is very pleased with this year’s IFF program. “Female movie makers take the lead,” she laughs. Iranian artist and movie maker Mania Akbari comes to present the movie “Ten” (Kiarostami, 2002) and her own movie 10+4 (Akbari, 2004). Akbari, known for her much praised movie 20 Fingers (IFF, 2006) shows her own story of a woman with breast cancer in the movie 10+4. After the movie presentations she speaks with the visitors. This year the IFF also presents Mina Keshavarz (1984) who followed a rock band in Iran for a year. Since public performances are forbidden, the band decides to give a secret concert. After that problems start with the authorities. At The End Of A Perfect Day is Keshavarz’ first movie.
Visitors of the IFF can converse with the independent movie makers and artists during the breaks while enjoying a cup of Persian tea and snacks. For music lovers Miss Dee and DJ Tupic will perform after the movie presentations. The third edition of the Iranian Film Festival takes place at the Lantaren/Venster in Rotterdam, The Netherlands from 17 to 19 October 2008.
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