At this edition of Middle East Now, the highly anticipated event held in Florence, Italy once a year, Iranian cinema occupies a special place in the festival program.
Among the titles enjoying their Italian premiere is the feature film Imagine (2022, pictured above) by Ali Behrad, his feature debut presented at this year's Cannes Film Festival in the Critics' Week sidebar. In the film, a taxi driver falls in love at night with a woman he cannot have, played by the star Leila Hatami, whose appearances always make sure a film is a success. It is a dream tale that tells a love story which plays with fantasy and imagination.
Also from Iran, two beautiful short films, including the award-winning doc The Doll by Elahe Esmaili (2022), in which a 35-year-old father agrees to the marriage of his 14-year-old daughter, a decision that triggers a heated confrontation in the family faced with very different perspectives and the values shared between of them. Also The Barter by Ziba Karamali and Emad Araad (2021), which stars Parsa, a thirteen-year-old boy, who is trying to hide a secret from his father, making for a Farhadi-style thriller in reduced length.
The festival's closing night film will be World War III by Houman Seyedi, a film which won the Orizzonti top prize in Venice earlier in September. The film also won its unconventional leading man Mohsen Tanabandeh the Best Actor award in Venice and has been selected as Iran's submission for this year's Academy Awards race.
Shakib (Tanabandeh) is a day worker who finds himself catapulted onto a movie set. The film is about the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler during the Second World War. When the actor who plays Hitler suddenly dies, he is replaced by Shakib, who bears a strange resemblance to the Führer. Soon, the directors themselves turn into dictators, ready to do anything to achieve their goals and unwittingly turn Shakib into a monster. The film will screen at Middle East Now in the presence of the director Houman Seyedi and the distributor Mohammad Atebbai.
Among the special events running concurrently to the film program at MENow is "Bound Narrative: A Photobook Library" curated by the Lebanese Roï Saade and housed inside the Museo Novecento. On of the precious books on show will be 'Zanjir', a written and photographic conversation imagined between the Iranian UK-based artist Amak Mahmoodian and the Persian princess and memoirist Taj Saltaneh. In 'Zanjir', Amak Mahmoodian draws on imagery from the King's collection from the 19th Century held at Golestan archives in Tehran and photographs she took in Iran to explore feelings of loss and separation from family and homeland. Through memories and dreams, 'Zanjir' mythifies absence and presence. The present which continuously exists in past, and the past which continuously exists in present.