Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the acclaimed Iranian director who has left an indelible stamp in global cinema, has a very simple philosophy towards filmmaking – change the world.
Never known to mince words or being diplomatic either in films or in real life, Makhmalbaf, clad in his trademark black shirt and black trousers and accompanied by his wife Marziyeh Meshkini, a filmmaker of repute in her own right, spoke about his films, the Iranian society, democracy and the need for a change in civilization. He was in the city on Saturday as part of the Kochi International Film Festival set to get underway here on Sunday.
“When I see so much poverty around me how can I make films about poetry,” Mr. Makhmalbaf quipped with innate honesty when asked about the extreme realism in his movie sometimes at the cost of the aesthetics of the medium of cinema. That is why he felt compelled to make his much celebrated film ‘Kandahar’ that told the horrors of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Calling himself a “little entertainer”, he said that the emphasis is on giving a valid message for the audience to ponder over when they come out of the movie house.
Thrown behind the bars at the age of 17 for opposing the repressive regime of the Shah, he said that the courage to stand up to dictatorship and injustice evolved during the five years he spent in prison during which he read about 2,000 books of all hues.
Mr. Makhmalbaf, however, was quick to add that he is not a one dimensional filmmaker. “I draw my concept from reality. Besides, the situations and the people I encounter, the places I see and my own mood dictate my decision on the next film,” he said. His next project is based on European refugees. He had strong words against Hollywood castigating it as responsible for the death of regional films in many countries. Mr. Makhmalbaf said that the censorship prevailing in Iran should not be mistaken as contributing to the wider global acceptance of Iranian movies. Rather, he attributed it to simplicity, social concepts based on which they are being made, realistic treatment, its root in poetry, the constant search to find something new. One could find the same reasons in the Indian movie ‘Pather Panchali,’ he felt. “Censorship kills cinema. Sometimes a little pressure gives filmmakers more energy to fight it. But strangulate them and they will die. That’s why many Iranian filmmakers are not able to make films there now,” he said. Mr. Makhmalbaf was not much euphoric about the popular uprisings in West Asian countries like Egypt. Egypt’s case is similar to Iran in the years after Islamic Revolution. “At that time, we thought that all our problems will be solved if the king goes. But he was replaced by a religious dictator. In our quest for democracy, we lost everything including liberalism and secularism,” he said.
He feels that democracy without morality is futile. Democracy is about vote of the majority but without morality the minority will be alienated.