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Spotlight Middle East

By Mimi Plauché, Head of Programming

From the Festival’s earliest years, we have been proud to showcase the artistic brilliance and storytelling virtuosity that has made Iranian cinema the focus (and envy) of the international film world. It was in 1969 that celebrated director Dariush Mehrjui came to Chicago to present his second film to our audience. Since then, Iranian films have been an important part of our Festival lineup, winning a total of three Gold Hugos and five Silver Hugos throughout the years, including Mehrjui’s The Pear Tree, which was awarded the Silver Hugo in 1993.

Of course, Iranian film is currently bathing in the limelight, with Asghar Farhadi’s incisive and gripping drama A Separation winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards. Farhadi’s intelligent and beautiful Fireworks Wednesday took the Gold Hugo here at the Festival in 2006, when he gave an equally moving acceptance speech at our own awards ceremony. 

At this year’s 48th Chicago International Film Festival in October, we will be presenting a Spotlight on Middle Eastern Cinema. So, when the Fajr International Film Festival, Iran's national film festival, invited me to attend this year, I took them up on the offer not only to see the latest yield of films from Iran but also to meet the filmmakers and experience firsthand their city and culture. It was an amazing experience.

Filmmakers, distributors and festival programmers from around the world gathered in Tehran last month. We screened more than 20 new films and met some of the new crop of directors. I also had the opportunity to meet with filmmakers who are longtime friends of our Festival and our city. After Fajr’s Closing Ceremony, at which Mehrjui’s latest film The Orange Suit earned a couple of awards, I met the filmmaker himself. Harried by reporters and cameramen chasing the filmmaker’s remarks, he flashed a big smile when he heard “Chicago” and “Chicago International Film Festival.”

I hope you are as excited as we are about the Iranian films we will be showcasing in the Spotlight Middle East Program in October. Stay tuned!