Persian International Film Festival: Interview with festival director, Amin Palangi
This is the 5th year of the festival. What was it that inspired you to create the very first Persian International Film Festival in 2011?
We set out to create this festival because we felt like there was a lot of interest in films from the region but there was not an avenue where they were accessible to everyone who wanted to see them. We had been thinking about doing this for a few years prior to when we started. However, when Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation won the Oscar, it was confirmed for us that there was definitely an interest and not enough outlet for the screening of these films. That is when we really set out to establish the festival.
There are a number of serious and tragic events happening across a number of Persian countries at present. How are those events shaping the filmmaking in the festival?
I think filmmaking is a reflection of a society. Some people might look at some of the films and say, oh wow, that’s a really dark film, why didn’t you choose something happier? But the reality is that because there are so many issues affecting people that are unpleasant, that is definitely reflected in the cinema and story telling. I mean this year I hardly saw any happy films coming from the region. The few that did were slap stick comedy that, to me, seemed like a deflection of the tragedies and deep social issues happening.
How do you get in touch with the filmmakers?
Some of the films that I choose get to me through the call for film submissions that I send out world wide every year. So, the filmmakers get in touch with me. Since the festival has been growing, there have been many filmmakers who have been contacting us and asking for their films to be screened.
For the other films, I have to seek the filmmakers out through their distributors. However, as a filmmaker myself, I know a lot of people in the Iranian film industry, and that makes contacting certain people slightly easier.
You have some really interesting practitioners coming to the festival this year. Can you speak on them?
This year we have Iranian filmmaker Majid Barzegar coming from Iran. Majid is a filmmaker to watch out for, as he is establishing his style really well. Majid has so far made three feature films. This year thanks to AFTRS, we will be hosting him and holding a retrospective for him by showing two of his films, Parviz and A Very Ordinary Citizen. A few years ago we also screened his first feature Rainy Season which was very welcomed by audiences.
Are there any Australian’s in the program?
Yes, this year we have an Iranian-Australian short filmmaker Vida Irani. Vida is an emerging filmmaker whose short film Duet will be screening at the festival.
Considering the current climate in countries like Syria and Iraq, it can be a risky business makes a film; what challenges have this year's filmmakers faced?
I think the challenges they face this year are the same as they face and have faced every year. Most of the films screened this year are coming from Iran. Iranian filmmakers, as you might know, face a lot of restrictions in making films generally and have jump through a lot of hoops in order to conceive something from idea to screen. So, I would say there is nothing really different this year to other years.
This year the festival is also travelling for the first time to Canberra, Adelaide and Melbourne. Can you tell us about that?
Given that the festival had been so successful in Sydney, we felt like there was a market for it to also grow in other cities. There are a lot of people of Persian background and those interested in its cinema across Australia. We felt like 5 years was a good time to start expanding and testing the market to see how we go. But so far ticket sales seem to have proven successful.
Did any specific films inspire you this year?
I would personally say Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman because he is just an inspiration to me as a filmmaker, and as a great story teller.
Buy tickets to the 5th Persian International Film Festival now: http://www.persianfilmfestival.com