September 24, 2004 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Love in a cage. All Iranian filmmakers working in their homeland have to face the trials of the censor, but if the subject matter includes abortion, adultery and lesbianism, the chances of gaining official approval in the Islamic republic are all but zero. Actress Mania Akbari, the lead of Abbas Kiarostami's "10", explores this territory in her first feature film as a director, "20 Fingers", which unspooled in the new "Digitale" section at the Venice Film Festival (.pdf file) and won the first prize as Best Movie Shot On Digital. The film's use of digital video was also invaluable in getting around censorship: the only way to shoot in Iran on 35mm is to hire equipment from the central authorities, which means script approval and a government minder attending the shoot. Shooting on digital video requires script approval, but no minder is sent along. So 29-year-old Akbari, in an amazing display of courage, gained approval for one script and then duly shot another (she could now be barred from working or from screening her films or from even leaving the country, but she insists on working in Iran, to challenge the system from there and not from abroad). The film is coming soon at the Vancouver Film Festival. More inside.
posted by matteo (5 comments total)
*When she submitted the film to the censor and was told it had to be cut, Akbari refused, preferring to see the movie effectively banned in her homeland. But because postproduction was done in London, the Iranian authorities could not block the film from circulating internationally. "20 Fingers" is made up of seven sequences in which a couple talk about intimate subjects. Each segment is about 10 minutes long and shot in a single take without cuts -- much easier to do using digital video than a 35mm camera with a cumbersome over-size canister.
The film includes a scene in which the husband-to-be performs a check on his future wife's virginity (the terrifying scene is shot in total darkness), eschewing the option of obtaining a doctor's certificate, and another discussing how the so-called "disciplinary forces" arrest a couple suspected of having an extramarital affair. "This is real Iranian life," Akbari said.*


I 've been lucky enough to see the movie already (and chat with Akbari). My 0.02 rial is that, just like its director, "20 Fingers" is smart, incredibly compassionate, brave and achingly beautiful. It is an important piece of really independent film-making, about Iran but also about women's rights, about the ultimate stupidity of macho swagger (not to mention its brutality towards its victims). And yes, it's about love and relationships too.
posted by matteo at 11:14 AM on September 24, 2004

"the chances of gaining official approval in the Islamic republic are all but zero"

All but zero? So, the chances can be anywhere from 1% to 100%. ;-P
posted by mischief at 11:38 AM on September 24, 2004

old but still interesting, Peter Bradshaw on '10'
posted by matteo at 12:51 PM on September 24, 2004

I hope I get the chance to see this. I wonder if they'll start blocking Iranian films from entering the US, along with Iranian filmmakers?
posted by languagehat at 5:26 PM on September 24, 2004

Great post Matteo. I hope this film makes it out to Toronto.
posted by chunking express at 8:06 PM on September 24, 2004

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