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Film fest presents authentic looks at life in Iran

Pity dog thgets way awful title character (LevHaftvan) “Parviz” showing Feb. 14 16 festival.

Pity the dog that gets in the way of the awful title character (Levon Haftvan) in “Parviz,” showing Feb. 14 and 16 at the festival.

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When: Through Feb. 28

Where: Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State

Admission: $11 ($7 students, $6 members)


Updated: March 8, 2014 6:11AM

Marriage is a recurring theme in this year’s “Festival of Films from Iran,” now in its 24th year at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Five dramas focus on women. Two documentaries focus on filmmakers. Yet all seven features pose issues of integrity in modern-day Iran.

“This is not a good time for filmmakers there,” noted Siskel programmer Barbara Scharres, citing a handful put “in prison on trumped-up charges.” In a recent talk for the Persian Circle at the University of Chicago, she reported that officially approved films show women submitting to religious duty. Scharres selects independently minded filmmakers with like-minded characters.

Troubled choices of self-censorship are addressed in the documentary “A Cinema of Discontent.” Jamsheed Akrami interviews filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (“The Past,” “A Separation”), who argues: “Just as we don’t have Islamic chemistry, we don’t have Islamic cinema, either.”

Nonetheless, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance dictates a woman in a film must cover her hair — even after chemotherapy or in the shower. She can never touch a man who is not her husband, father, brother or son.

Authorities might not monitor “My Name Is Negahdar Jamali and I Make Westerns,” a documentary by Kamran Heidari. “They think westerns are for Americans and have nothing to do with Iran,” complains this actor and auteur. “They believe we should make movies about the Iran-Iraq war.” He casts pals as cowboys. Afghanis double as Indians. Women are not scripted. His wife leaves him.

Mehrnaz Saeedvafa of Columbia College will discuss Heidari’s documentary after its 8 p.m. screening on Feb. 15. “I saw ‘Rio Bravo’ dubbed in Persian at [Tehran’s] Radio City movie theater,” she recalled. She just made a film about her watching Jerry Lewis films as a kid in Iran.

Domestic dramas include “Snow on Pines,” a black-and-white look at infidelity. It’s the directing debut of Peyman Moaadi, who played the husband in “A Separation,” the first Iranian film to win an Oscar. Rouhollah Hejazi directs both “The Wedlock” and “The Private Life of Mr. & Mrs. M.”

In “The Bright Day” a woman with a romantic agenda tracks down witnesses in a death-penalty case. Through a taxi window, Hossein Shahabi surveys a morally compromised Tehran.

For moral rot without the sociology, go see Majid Barzegar’s audacious “Parviz.” A father remarries. It upsets his dependent 50-year-old son. A lot. This is a wonderful tale of an awful individual.

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