Due to some unexpected connection issues we were unable to provide real-time updates to you from the field. Alas, now that we have returned, a retrospective. Everything you may have heard about the extent of Iranian hospitality is true. As special invited guests of the first ever Cinema Verite Iranian International Documentary Film Festival, the whole notion of VIP has taken on new meaning. From the moment we were able to clear customs, we were treated to an amazing experience of local culture, captivating films, and ever so gracious hosts. It's a shame that when visiting a new country, first impressions are usually made at the dreaded passport control. Even upon re-entry back into the homeland, passport control and customs are never experiences one looks forward to. Interestingly, many of the international flights entering Tehran come and go between the hours of 12am - 8am, only serving to magnify the anxiety of dealing with border control especially after a full day (and night) of travel. Customs issues aside, the true experience of the culture and specifically the film festival began the following morning as we were whisked away to the Felestin Cinema, serving as the festival's hub of operations.
The support and turnout of the local populace to the festival was inspiring. By the throngs of attendees we witnessed everyday, there is a strong craving in Iran for documentary films with national and international themes. Speaking of international, many kudos are go out to the festival organizers for the cache of talent and industry professionals they were able to draw out to this inaugural event. Both organizers and attendees took pride in the fact that this event truly was a global affair, where Iranian Cinema took the center stage. It's fascinating to realize the scope of the history and richness of Iranian Cinema. Our first official "field trip" was a visit to the
Field Museum of Iran. I consider this a master stroke by the festival organizers because it set the context from which this tradition stands. From the first crank of the gavmont model of the cinematograph in August 1900 to today's contemporary cinema, the Iranian Film industry is thriving both in the quality of work released as well as the local support for this art.
More to come...
Photos by Lenny Williams, Courtesy of National Geographic Society