Storm Warnings: The Films of Bahman Farmanara Jan 26 – 31
One of the founding figures of the Iranian New Wave of the 70s, Bahman Farmanara attracted attention with his second feature, a powerful adaptation of Houshang Golshiri’s Prince Ehtejab (1974). A portrait of a dying monarch increasingly trapped in his own mental space, Prince Ehtejab was one of the first Iranian films to be seen widely abroad; by 1977 Farmanara was the head of the Iranian Film Development Company. His third feature, Tall Shadows of the Wind, was completed in 1978, as the uprising against the Shah was moving into high gear. Banned by the government, the film was briefly re-released following the Islamic Revolution — only to be withdrawn from circulation once again.
Moving to Canada, Farmanara became an important film distributor, his company Spectrafilm acquiring a number of key international titles. Forced to move back to Iran due to a family crisis, Farmanara dedicated himself to running his family’s textile business, yet never lost his passion for film. In his spare time he wrote scripts, yet all were turned down by the government censors. Finally — after ten rejections — Farmanara’s eleventh script was accepted, and he immediately set to work filming it. The rest, as they say, is history; the new film, Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine, swept the awards at the 2000 Fajr Film Festival in Tehran and went on to enjoy great international success.
In Bahman Farmanara’s films, there’s always a veneer of deceptive calm; things look well ordered and stable, but just off screen, just out of sight, one can sense a growing turbulence that will soon threaten to engulf his characters. In the recent, post-1979 films, he brings us into the world of Iran’s well-off middle classes, successful professionals who outwardly live well but who nevertheless fear that all around them will soon collapse. While his films have been read as political critiques, and their implications can certainly be read as such, Farmanara is also addressing the fragility of life itself. A fear of mortality hangs over all his recent work, a fear not only of the death that all of us must eventually face but even more importantly a concern that one hasn’t made enough of a difference while alive. We will be able to welcome Bahman Farmanara back to Lincoln Center for these screenings of his films.
A special feature of the series will be the premiere of Iranian filmmaker and film scholar Dr. Jamsheed Akrami’s The Lost Cinema, a revealing look at the rise of the Iranian New Wave in the final years of the Shah.