- Disseminating Dissent: Iranian Independent Cinema Vancity Theatre, June 1-7. Opening reception tonight at 6 p.m. For more information visit www.viff.org/theatre.
IT was a year ago that Ramin Joubin saw an opportunity when organizers at VIFF contacted him to help promote a film by Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi.
Joubin explains that Panahi was arrested in Iran in 2010 for allegedly making propaganda. He was subsequently sentenced to six years in prison and banned from making films for 20 years. During some legal limbo, Panahi was under house arrest and made the movie This Is Not a Film.
Joubin knew other similar Iranian filmmakers, and decided to send samples of their work to VIFF. The result is a unique series called Disseminating Dissent: Iranian Independent Cinema, a film series at Vancity Theatre starting tonight.
Panahi's documentary This Is Not a Film is among the presentations.
Joubin says he had a central role in choosing the theme of the series, and in selecting about half of the films. Although the theme of the series originally focused on underground artists, that theme was deemed too narrow, so was made more general to include a broader range independent Iranian filmmakers.
Although the event started with one filmmaker, it has expanded to include 12 works by 11 different filmmakers.
"The general theme is that it's independent work, dissent; some go really underground, some don't get too political or anything, but they deal with a social issue," says Joubin. "It touches on the different aspects of life and artistic expression."
While the subject matter of all the films deals with dissent, some filmmakers make it central to their work, while others incorporate the theme indirectly.
"It varies from really political to just a social issue that focuses on life inside Iran," says Joubin.
For example, Torang Abedian's documentary, Not An Illusion, follows a group of female singers struggling between modern life and tradition in Iran.
"But she didn't make it very political. She just focused on the musicians," notes Joubin.
He adds that while the content of the films is important, the story behind the films is just as important because each filmmaker has a different political profile.
Each filmmaker has different political affiliations that come out a little in their films, but the extent to which they include their political opinions varies, says Joubin.
There is a class of underground filmmakers who are against co-operating in any way with the Iranian government, or finding a way to work within government restrictions, explains Joubin, but there are some filmmakers who make some small compromises to portray their messages or really struggle to get certain "permissions," but the government doesn't fund them.
The different political philosophies of the featured filmmakers are part of what makes the film series so unique, notes Joubin. He says it creates an interesting plural mix.
Some of the story of Iranian cinema will be told in the 15-minute short A Brief History of Iranian Cinema, presented tonight along with Moslem Mansouri's film Trial. The history film traces early Iranian cinema to modern times, and outlines how trends have changed.
Joubin suggests there is an element of dissent in the domestic film industry in Iran that is allowed by the government, but it's very weak and is mainly just to get people inside the country to go to the films.
He says there is tension among some Iranian artists who differ in opinion over how much politics should be a part of their films.
"One would say there is a higher responsibility," he says of the pressure some artists feel, noting there are a lot of issues involved as artists deal with the pull between being too political and possibly "covering up the truth."
Along those lines, Vancouver filmmaker Hossein Martin Fazeli is presenting the discussion Film Activism Versus Filmmaking on June 2, at 7 p.m.
"It can be very effective for change if artists come out and say we want change," says Joubin.
Whether audiences are political or not, Joubin says the series presents a unique glimpse into life in Iran from a variety of perspectives.
Disseminating Dissent: Iranian Independent Cinema is at Vancity Theatre. For more information visit the website at www.viff.org/theatre.