BIFFes: ‘I have watched Sholay 500 times,’ says Iranian filmmaker Shahed Ahmadlou

Shahed Ahmadlou   | Photo Credit: GP Sampath Kumar

The 12th edition of the Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes) opened on Thursday with the Iranian dark comedy Cinema Donkey, written and directed by Shahed Ahmadlou.

It was one of the films that had a packed house on the festival’s first day. Ahmadlou says, “The movie is about friendship and peace and how important it is for the world. There is no other way to achieve success other than love and honesty.”

The message it tries to convey might sound banal. But more than the moral, it is the story that matters, especially with films. And, Cinema Donkey has an intriguing plot. According to the film’s official synopsis, it is about a filming group making a “film that has a message for humanity. They need a professional donkey for a few scenes. The budget and time limitations have made it difficult for them to find a donkey. Until the production group finds a donkey wandering in the woods.”

To film this seemingly simple, bitter-sweet tale, wasn’t easy for Ahmadlou. One of the reasons was using a real donkey in the film. “In the end, a donkey is a donkey. It tends to do what it wants to,” he says, straight-faced, “And, we are trying to make a movie about some people making a movie. Whatever problems the characters faced in the movie, we faced them too.”

Crazy about Sholay

Ahmadlou, 45, started his career as an actor. He then began making experimental films, some of which won awards from domestic and international festivals. He won the UNICA Gold Medal for the short film Cinema Dog.

He got into films after watching Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay. “I have watched it over 500 times. I have it on my phone. I watch it at least once a month.” Asked what he likes about the movie, he raises his brows, sighs theatrically, and says, “everything.” Satyajit Ray is another Indian director he admires.

Ahmadlou’s predecessors, like Abbas Kiarostami and Majid Majidi, have been building a rich legacy for Iranian cinema. They have also influenced filmmakers of many countries, especially through film festivals. “In Iran, you can make an independent movie with a low budget. And, you get to know from these festivals that people all over the world are liking it. It gives you the strength to keep pushing yourself. Each and every word you hear from other filmmakers from other cultures, you put it together and make a book within yourself, from which you can learn.”

As with most film industries in the world, Ahmadlou says, Iran too has separate spaces for mainstream and art-house cinema. “The movies that balance art and entertainment end up being successful and also stand the test of time,” he adds.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 4:16:41 PM |

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