Le Monde Newspaper
By: Agnes Devictor
We are acquainted with the director Moshen Makhmalbaf. His films, in particular The cyclist (1989), Salam Cinema (1995), A Moment Of Innocence (1996), Gabbeh (1996), and The Silence (1998), have established him as one of the major film-makers of the Iranian new wave, and he is often referred to as the “other” leader of this movement, alongside Abbas Kiarostami. And then his daughter, Samira appeared on the scene, bursting with life and talent with The Apple, acclaimed by the Cannes Festival in 1998 and by cinema lovers world over, followed by The Balckboard, winner of the Grand du jury at Cannes 2000. Then there is his wife, Marzieyh Meshkiny, whose the Day I Became a Woman has just been short listed at the Venice Film and won a prize in Toronto, and his son, Maysam, Is in films too – he directed the Making of Blackboards and was stills photographer for Silence even the youngest sister hana, aged nine, presented a video short at Locarno. They all come under the umbrella of the Makhmalbaf Film House, which by no means confines itself to being a family studio. Located at the end of an ally, in the center of Tehran, this astonishing hothouse for film talent is in a discreet three-story building, housing private apartments, technical offices and business premises. This strange place was a the brainchild of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, purely self taught and proud of it, who wanter to set up a film school. In 1995, after directing Salam Cinema, he sought permission from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic to open the school, but was refused. And so he opened up his own home to his family, friends and artists whom he admired.
Each person taught their speciality-film, photography, visual arts, literature- everybody learnt. Rather then a university of theoretical knowledge, Makhmalbaf wanted to create a place for exchanging experiences. Thus he developed, on a bigger scale, what he had begun years earlier with Samira when she was a child. Samira has always been surrounded by Cinema. Since she was tiny, she has watched her father write, shoot and edit his films, and at the age of eight, she played a little Bohemian girt in The Cyclist. “My father’s screenplays were my bedside books, I read them before falling asleep.” She says. So it is no surprise that she dreamed of becoming a director too. Which her father, who does not do things by halves, took very seriously.
“It wanted to put me to the test, so he would wake me up at three o’clock in the morning saying: ‘you want to make films? The get up and get to work!’” After her baccalaureate, Samira attend the family university, and studied there for four years, graduating with a Makhmalbaf “Masters in film”. Nowadays this university has closed its doors, as the master no longer has the time to continue teaching there: he is currently working on his next film, The Test of Democracy, as well as being in charge of selling the family’s works. Although the Makhmalbaf Film House receives only the most meager state subsidies, it co-funded the “house” films, most of them with Fabrica Film, a powerful Italian subsidiary of Benetton, headed by Marco Muller, until this year director of the Locarno festival.
When asked whether this family hive can be little suffocating, Samira reminds us that while she was editing The Blackboards in Tehran, her step- mother was shooting in the south of Iran, and that today, when she returns at last to Tehran for a rest, her father will be in the middle of shooting. This family of film-makers barely ever manages to get together … thank goodness there are the festivals!
The Makhmalbaf Family
Le Monde Newspaper