Posts tagged iran
Jury member at the Mumbai Film Festival, director Samira Makhmalbaf talks about the tough job ahead and her search for hope through strife
Samira Makhmalbaf’s family business is cinema. Her father is the prolific Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf and she got involved in the trade when she was just 14. First as an actor, and then director, her rise to critical acclaim has been swift and overwhelming.
Recently she was voted by Guardian to be among the top 40 directors in world who are still making films and has already been among many festival juries around the world. She does the same for the Mumbai Film Festival this week. “I am not a critic so I’m glad that we will decide in a group.
I do realise that everyone watches a film with their own baggage, but I will try and leave mine behind before I see a film. I don’t know what I’m looking for, but something that touches my heart for sure. I realise what an award can do for a filmmakers career,” says the young director.
And in that, Samira has come close twice. Her films, Blackboards and At Five in the Afternoon were nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes, but missed it. However they did go on to win the The Grand Jury Prize at the fest. Her films are an exploration of hope through the worst circumstances. War, its after-effects and the people that get affected by it, are subjects that she has constantly explored through her career.
And these stories, though fictional are founded on truth, and the actors she employs, are real life ones too. “It has become a love in the process of making a film for me. Real people have real stories and casting them brings this out. People say that I use symbols in my films, but actually they are inspired by real life,” says Samira.
We ask if a film on conflict-ridden nations gets easily accepted abroad? She says, “People say that my films are political. But I am an artist, not a politician. The fact is that politics exists in my life and it is a natural extension of me. My films might show dark and real situations.
If I don’t that might look good, but it isn’t true. We should discuss about violence, we have to talk about it. See what is happening in Iran, I am surrounded by this atmosphere. If I can get one person to change the way they think through my films, I am happy.”
Samira and her whole family has cannot enter Iran without being arrested. Her life and her films, talk about the conflict she lives, within herself and with the country that has abandoned free-thinkers like her.
By Neville Bode, October 18, 2010 – 15:43 IST
With the enormous success of the South Indian blockbuster, Robot (Endhiran) has already made a benchmark in the evolution process of filmmaking in India. The Rajinikanth – Aishwarya starrer directed by S.Shankar, got rave reviews for its uniqueness in action and visual effects. With a budget of over a hundred and fifty crores, 25 % of the funds were allotted in executing the commendable work done in VFX that helped in the narration of the film.
The film revolves around Dr. Vaseegaran played by Rajinikanth who invents a High-end robot named Chitti, a mirror of his own image. The scientific body, AIRD, declines the approval of the robot stating that it does not have emotions and the ability to make rational judgment. An unexpected flash of lightning induces emotions in the robot, and Chitti is geared up for its integration into the human world. Chitti then falls in love with Dr. Vaseegaran’ fiancée Sana played by Aishwarya Rai and goes against his creator.
The film has already spread its wings across the globe with raking in massive box-office collections. V. Srinivas Mohan, the VFX supervisor of this film and CEO of the VFX studio – Indian Artists, utilized the innovative skin grafting technology that got laudable appreciation from critics for Sivaji. Shankar got him on board for his latest endeavor Endhiran. He has also worked with the director in Aparichit and Boys hence it was certain that the director would need the VFX extraordinaire in executing the science-fiction film. Along with him Frankie Chung of Kinomotive studios and Eddy Wong of Menfond Electronics & Arts, both from Hong Kong, also worked as additional VFX supervisors for their respective sequences.
Robot boasts of a mammoth 2000 visual effects shots in 40 scenes. The bulk of the VFX work was undertaken in Srinivas’ Indian Artists Computer Graphics Pvt. Ltd., Kinomotive Studios, Menfond Electronics & Arts, Pixion, Vensat, Firefly Creative Studios Hyderabad, EFX Prasad Studios, Oyster and Ocher studios also assisted in executing some of the VFX and post production work for the film.
Apart from the studios that were on board in this project, talented freelancers from London, Iran, Germany, France and Hong Kong were required for their expertise.
In this exclusive two part case study, BollywoodHungama gets to the bottom of the making and visual effects process that made this monumental film and Rajinikanth shine like steel.
Shankar the director called up Srinivas in the winter of 2007 and narrated the entire story to him for over four hours. Amazed and excited about the project since nothing of this nature was undertaken by any filmmaker in India before. The conceptualization and ideation was done entirely by the director. Following the preparations of the script, Srinivas explained to the director that pre-production and planning was needed to execute his ideas before production of the film began.
When Srinivas, the VFX supervisor, understood the script, a test was carried out to get a glimpse of the scene with visual effects. The director and Srinivas chose the train sequence for the test. With the shot divisions regarding the different camera angles in place during pre-production, an animator Sanath P.C. from Hyderabad was roped in to enhance the pre-visualization process.
Maya, an academy award winning software was used to create a digital set based on the script. Layouts of the train and characters were made using the software, although the team didn’t finalize any locations during the test, they used actual physical proportions of a real train. Once the director approved of the layouts, basic actions of the scene were carried out.
Srinivas along with the director and the director of photography blocked the camera angles for the scene using the software. Each shot had 2 to 3 versions of camera angles made to get a better view of the sequence. With the digital shots in place, temporary clips better known as ‘playblasts’ were extracted from the software to view the shots they made in real time. With these clips in hand, Anthony – the editor, was required to line up these clips according to the scene. This gave the team some room in improvising the shots that were made. Utilizing this method, the team planned out 40 crucial visual effects scenes of the film.
After the test
Shankar did the shot division of the script which he handed over to the supervisor for pre-visualization. With the pre-visualization sorted out, Srinivas who headed the visual effects team did the entire VFX breakdown of the film. With this the team had more clarity in terms of execution and knowledge of the different layers that consisted of live action, CGI and animatronics. Based on the breakdown, Srinivas started hunting for appropriate artists and talent they needed for the film.
Director of Photography
The D.O.P, R.Rathnavelu was instrumental in the pre-production stage; he helped Srinivas and the director in blocking the different camera angles that were required. This clarified what was needed in all the different layers involved in the shots. With his tremendous knowledge in visual effects, Rathnavelu pointed out the constraints in executing the shots in terms of lighting and other technicalities.
The opening shot of the film
The opening shot of the film where-in the robot gets assembled and the credits of the film are rolling weren’t decided in the script initially. Instead of the animation sequence seen in the film, the makers had initially thought of using live action for the introduction sequence. This didn’t go well for an opening shot. With this in mind, Srinivas consulted the director and suggested using an animation of the robot getting assembled in the scene.
He points out that this was a last minute decision which worked in their favor. Pre-visualization and implementation of the animation was done in a week. Pixion in Chennai did the opening credits and animation for the opening scene.
Animatronics is mostly used in filmmaking and other avenues of entertainment. It is basically electronic puppetry that simulates real life in front of a camera. This technology is used in a large number of films in the west. Srinivas insisted in using this unique innovation for Robot based on the visual effects break down that was made for the film.
He approached Legacy Effects formerly known as Stan Winston Studios in LA, to assist in the making of the film. The American studio worked in movies like Terminator: Salvation, Avatar, Alice In Wonderland etc. Srinivas points out that they utilized electronic puppetry in place of the actor for its realism. The scene where Rajinikanth places the eye on the robot was all executed by Legacy Effects. They also assisted in special make up that was required for Rajinikanth.
(Stay tuned for part two of Rajinikanth Amalgamation into Chitti)
Pakistani drag artiste and Bigg Boss contestant Begum Nawazish Ali feels that her nation is crumbling but sexuality there is a non-issue
• Will you be in women’s clothing throughout the show?
It will have to be a 50-50. I’ve made it clear that we’re unique individuals. There are two atmaans in me: one male and one female. But playing a woman 24/7 is physically impossible. At the same time, playing the male full-time is not feasible, because the man in me can be boring. I know it’s going to be a tight ropewalk for me. It’s a balancing act.
• Will you flirt with the men on screen?
Main chote-mote baccho ke saath flirt kya karoongi? There is only one person jo mere standards ko match kar sakta hai and that is the Bigg Boss himself!
• The show must also be an escape from the horrific realities of Pakistan.
In the last few months, I’ve been extremely depressed about Pakistan. Hundreds of people dying, from floods, from fundamentalist violence, and that’s all you hear about in the news. I have to confess that I have been selfish in accepting this opportunity.
Being locked up for those many weeks might allow for some introspection in terms of how I can give something back to Pakistan, how I can play a slightly more proactive role in repairing it. But yes, I am escaping the bitter, unpleasant realities of a troubled nation.
It’s important for my own sanity.
• Can Pakistani citizens themselves be absolved from the mess they’re in? You guys have let the army run amuck, to say nothing of bedding Islamist terrorists via the ISI? Hasn’t elitism destroyed your nation?
I don’t see the army as an enemy. The army has actually been quite active in restoring the nation after the devastating floods we’ve faced. But there are elements in the army, there are elements in the political elite, there are elements in the judiciary.
You can’t blame an entire institution. As regards the ISI and its alleged complicity in stoking fundamentalist violence, you have to understand that the game in Pakistan is a little more complicated. There are a lot of international agencies that are very active.
There are the Americans with their own agenda, there is China, there is India, both of which have their own agendas as well, and then there is Iran, which is another ballgame altogether. Pakistan is caught in a web of many intrigues, and its citizens are helpless. With these many sinister mobs playing under the table games, people are more bothered about their rozi roti than khatra.
This is a trial by fire that Pakistan will have to go through, lekin Pakistaniyo ko jaagna padega. They will have to wake up and sacrifice land, property, money.
• How easy is it being gay in a theological democracy and increasing fundamentalism?
Sexuality is not on the list of priorities for the players in the scramble for Pakistan. As far as sexuality is concerned, it is a very personal business in Pakistan; everybody is free to be whatever they want to be. I’ve never heard of any discrimination based on sexuality, as far as men are concerned. Men, whether gay or straight, have their way in this male-dominated society.
First the J&K government had problems with Lamhaa being shot in Kashmir. Then the release of the film didn’t see the light of day in Srinagar.
To top it all, the film has now been banned completely in the Gulf countries.
Producer Bunty Walia said, “Yes Lamhaa has been banned all over the Gulf countries, in Iran, Iraq, Dubai Kuwait everywhere. They felt that the movie was controversial and objected strongly against it.
They don’t find the film fit for their audience to watch.” Apparently, the film was then sent to the revising committee in the Gulf countries. Walia added, “They too banned the film.”
|A still from Lamhaa|
Famed Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi talks to Vishwas Kulkarni about making movies about ordinary folks, being Muslim in a hostile world, his disappointment with Priyadarshan’s Bum Bum Bole and Indian cinema in general
MUMBAI MIRROR; June 18, 2010
His film Children of Heaven was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Picture in 1998. Majid Majidi is one of the key filmmakers who has put Iran on the World Cinema map. Whilst in town last week, Majidi spoke to Mumbai Mirror exclusively.
• You started out as an actor, then moved on to directing.
I was part of an experimental film and theatre group that Mohsen Makhmalbaf also belonged to. But I was never into acting. I had a world vision of my own, I was aware of this even when acting. I was making shorts. These shorts were a crucial part of my cinematic consciousness.
• Iranian cinema captivates with its use of rustic, rural settings, the way the ordinary sublimates to universal truths or crises even. Comment.
There are two ways in which my films function. One is the depiction of the external world, the world of mundane, daily chores. Through the external, we enter the internal. I always knew that I will focus on the most ordinary of individuals so that it may be digested by the world. I choose the simplest of persons because if you pick up an engineer or a doctor, only a handful of people will connect. My endeavour has been to amplify the voices of the suppressed.
• Being Iranian is always fraught with politics. From the global furore over Iran’s controversial nuclear programme to the protests against Ahmadinejad, how do you negotiate your Iranian identity with the outside world?
Politics is very malleable. What is permanent is art. Art captures our hearts, politics is a balloon – if you inflate it too much it explodes. Politics paints a vague picture of Iran. There are, and will always be, vested Western interests in Iran that will never want to see Iran as a peaceful and settled nation.
|A still from Bum Bum Bole|
• But Iran is an equally vociferous anti-Semitic machinery.
Israel has a huge superiority complex. It wants to impose its superiority, its might to the ultimate. To maintain this, it will retain Palestine to the bitter end. Things are not going to settle down with a nation like Israel, something that has the full support of the Western world.
• Don’t you blame the lack of Arab unity and political will for the mess in the Middle East?
Absolutely. The Arab world was never committed to its people, let alone the concept of an Arab unity. It is a culture that has sold out to gain economic gains from the West. It suffers from a low self-esteem. It is a culture that has been debased by its own people. Yes, the Arab world has disappointed us sizeably.
• What is your take on the decision to ban the burqa in some European nations? They see it as offensive to women.
The decision is totally contrary to the freedom of movement. On one side, it blows the trumpet of free speech; on the other, people wearing burqas are going to be barred from public places. Don’t you see the irony and the hypocrisy in this?
• You’re deeply embarrassed by the Indian remake of one of your films, Bum Bum Bole?
I put all my trust in these people. They were after me for a while to sell the rights. I even offered to give my creative inputs. The makers of the film wanted to make a proper and worthy film or so they promised me. So it is rather sad that I’ve heard very negative things about this remake.
• Why can’t Indians make films of international stature?
Indian cinema is in a very sad situation. They haven’t been able to come up with the standards to be accepted by the world. They are not using their faculties, economic or cultural. There are potentially good actors here. Indians have a wide viewer base. Indian cinema has access to lots of money. I am therefore saddened that the outcome of quality cinema from such an industry is zero. An industry producing 600 films should produce at least 40-50 films of international standards at least. But clearly this isn’t the case.
• You’re working on a film that is being produced by UTV.
Yes, that is a gigantic project based on the prophet’s life as a child. A set of Mecca is being recreated. A good sum of money is being put into this.