IFFK at 20: Dariush Mehrjui to be given Lifetime Achievement Award

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 29: Eminent filmmaker and spearhead of Iran’s cinematic renaissance Dariush Mehrjui is the recipient of the International Film Festival of Kerala’s (IFFK) ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ this year.

Chairman, IFFK 2015 advisory committee, Shri Shaji N. Karun made the announcement at Thursday’s meeting to form the festival’s ‘Organising Committee’.

At the van of the Iranian New Wave movement of the 1970s – one of the most enduring and influential of modern film ‘waves’, Mehrjui introduced hitherto little-explored cinematic themes and narratives. Infused with a heady mix of realism and symbolism, his films helped foster the development of arthouse sensibilities among a fast-maturing cinema audience.

After debuting with the unsuccessful Diamond 33 (1966), a big budget parody of Bond films, Mehrjui found acclaim and recognition with Gaav(The Cow, 1969), which is considered the first film of the wave. A metaphorical drama about an aged villager and his attachment to his prized cow, the film was adapted from a short story by Iranian literary giant Gholamhossein Sa’edi.

Though dealing with subjects of near universal appeal – his films find kinship with the works of Roberto Rosselini, Vittorio de Sica and Satyajit Ray, his oeuvre possess a distinctively Iranian flavour in part because they were mostly inspired by or adapted from Iranian literature and plays.

Banned for more than a year by the Ministry of Culture and Arts, Gaav was denied an export permit even after domestic release in 1970. It was smuggled out of Iran in 1971 and submitted to that year’s Venice Film Festival. Though screened without subtitles, it became the biggest hit of the festival.

In 1973, Mehrjui began shooting what is considered his magnum opus, The Cycle (1975). An unsparing look inside the illicit trade in blood donations amid the poverty and despair of the country’s shanty-towns, it was Iran’s first submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 50th Academy Awards in 1977. The film was banned for three years before being released in Iran in 1978.

In the 1990s, he turned his critical lens onto the discontents of contemporary Iran. His disillusionment with the Islamic Revolution’s shift from politics to dogmatism is reflected in Hamoun (1990), while The Pear Tree (1999) was an examination of Iran’s new bourgeoisie.

Mehrjui will be feted at the IFFK 2015 inaugural ceremony. A cash prize of Rs 5 lakh accompanies the citation.

IFFK 2015, Kerala’s premier film festival, will run from December 4 -11.


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