Iranian cinema center stage at Lido

Two Iranians cineastes are on the Lido this year

References to Iran appear throughout this year’s Biennale.

Filmmakers in exile Amir Naderi from New York and Marjane Satrapi from Paris present films in the competition and in sidebars.

Italian journalist Monica Maggioni who was already on the Lido last year, with her documentary Ward 54 about returning war veterans, is back with another documentary, Out of Tehran, shown in Controcampo Italiano, the section showcasing new cinema trends. Its four chapters describe three young people and one older professor who, for various political or personal reasons, cannot stay in Iran. As they might get arrested trying to get out of the country by air, they flee through the mountains to the west, through Turkey or Kurdistan, a route that tens of thousands have followed since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The terrain is rugged, the temperatures unbearably high or low, the smugglers who charge a fortune can leave you stranded, and spies abound. But what price freedom!

Amir Naderi is a veteran filmmaker whose best and best-known work remains the 1985 The Runner. His film Cut was shown in the Venice Orizzonti sidebar. The violent and at times ludicrous thriller about the Japanese mafia known as yakuza will do little to enhance his reputation.

Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (pictured), the team that gave us the remarkable animated Persepolis, are back with their film Chicken with Plums in competition. The story takes place in the Tehran of the 1950s. A famous violinist (Mathieu Amalric) unable to repair his broken violin, decides that life without music is not worth living. The rather flat adaptation from another of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novels was received with both boos and applause. Despite interesting moments, it’s safe to say that Chicken with Plums is not a contender for the top award.