August 10, 2015

ALL COMEDY IS CONSERVATIVE:

The President's Mohsen Makhmalbaf: 'There's a little Shah in all of us' (Saeed Kamali Dehghan, 10 August 2015, The Guardian)

His latest film, The President, which premiered at Venice last year and is out in the UK next week, is a dark satire following the life of a despot and his six-year-old grandson as they flee from revolutionaries. Disguising himself as a street musician, the president, played by Misha Gomiashvilli, begins to learn about the people he oppressed.

Although it was shot in Georgia, the film is meant to depict an unnamed country: this dictator could come from any part of the world. As Makhmalbaf says: "You can see Iraq, Libya, Syria, Central Asia and even Cuba in it." The idea came to Makhmalbaf nine years ago when he was visiting the ruins of Darul Aman palace outside Kabul, once the home of former Afghan president Mohammad Najibullah. "I initially based the script on Najibullah," he says, "but after the Arab spring, I rewrote it many times, with help from my wife, deleting any signs that could reveal which country it was."

"At last we had a president - but is it clear whether their president came to power with or without an election? He could be either a shah or a president. Was he overthrown by a revolution or a military coup? It could be both. You could see Iraq's Saddam Hussein in him, or Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. You could also see Iran's current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or even our own former Shah of Iran and his wife Farah Pahlavi, who fled the country before the revolution."

Makhmalbaf, 58, has first-hand experience of revolution. As a 15-year-old, he set up his own guerrilla-style political group to overthrow the Shah. Jailed at 17 for attempting to stab a soldier, he was only released five years later when the Shah fled during the 1979 revolution. In prison, he shared cells with some of Iran's most famous revolutionaries; some became leaders, others were hanged as traitors.

After the revolution, Makhmalbaf quit politics and began a career as a writer and film-maker. Three decades later, however, he became a high-profile supporter of Iran's pro-reform Green movement, which took to the streets in 2009 to protest at the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is now persona non grata in Iran, where his works are banned.

Iran will be mature when its leaders can laugh at themselves.

Posted by at August 10, 2015 7:12 PM
  

blog comments powered by Disqus
« NOW THAT THERE'S NO FIGHTING, THEY COULD JUST DO R&D: | Main | NOT A TOPIC THAT WILL BEAR THOUGHT: »