Packed Slemani international film festival starts with award for Jafar Panahi
By A.C. Robinson
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Organizers hailed the opening night of the third Slemani International Festival Film a success with the arrival of nearly 100 international film industry insiders at the red carpet ceremony and a packed hall of guests in attendance.
One of the most influential filmmakers in Iran, Jafar Panahi, was awarded the Slemani Honorary Award by Masti Film Company in absentia for the second time since the event’s inception in 2016.
Due to the perspective of his filmmaking based on life in Iran, which focuses on the hardships of women, children and the impoverished, Panahi has faced several years of conflict with the government.
His filmmaking led to a six-year jail term from 2010-2016 in addition to a 20-year ban on writing screenplays, directing movies, interviews with foreign or local media or leaving the country.
However his wife, Tahereh Saudi, was present at the festival to receive the award on Panahi's behalf.
"This award was given for movies which are made despite all of the difficulties and limits," she said.
Panahi gained international recognition for his debut film, The White Balloon, which won the Camera d'Or (Golden Camera) award for best feature film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995 and he has continued to win more awards.
"Jafar is a strong person who works to show women's and social problems in general," Saudi said. "By knowing all the difficulties in Iran, he says what he believes in and all these problems exist because he doesn't give up from what he believes."
Following the awards ceremony, the feature film Girls of the Sun that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May was also screened.
Communications director Hussein said that starting Thursday, all other film screenings will be held at City Cinema, Salim Cinema and Amna Suraka.
"We are expecting a full house at the cinema halls during the screenings and there are several seminars regarding the guest's international film festivals as well," he said, adding that there are still several surprises to come.
The opening night began at the Talari Hunar (Arts Building) which seats nearly 1,500 people but was packed full with enthusiasts sitting or standing in the aisles.
"Tonight as you can see everything is going very well," said the festival's communications director Hemmin Hussein. "It is as we have expected and even more. The audience is amazing."
The festival runs through October 16 and a total of 170 films with connections to more than 120 countries will be screened over the week-long event.
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Photos: Sartep Othman | Rudaw