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Report on Tribute Program at 15th Iranian Cinema National Awards Ceremony

The tribute program of the Iranian Cinema Ceremony was arranged at Shams Hall on Tuesday, September 12, the national day of the Iranian cinema in the presence of large group of filmmakers.
According to the news on the website of the House of Cinema, the ceremony began by Hossein Pakdel who was in charge of running the program. Pakdel said: “I was under the impression that things are not so well in the Iranian cinema. But considering the large number of people who are present here, I believe cinema is in very good shape and actually those who think cinema is not feeling well are in bad shape themselves.”
Farhad Towhidi, chairman of the board of directors of the House of Cinema was the first speaker. Concerning  the tribute program of the Iranian cinema ceremony, Towhidi said: “Every year at the Iranian cinema ceremony, we pay tribute to three artists and one cinematic figure. One of the prizes, the Seifollah Daad prize is presented to people who have rendered worthy services to the Iranian cinema. Three more prizes are awarded to filmmakers who have rendered especial services to the Iranian cinema and have devoted their lives to cinema, or have done great services during their short lives.” He continued by reading a satirical piece on the reasons for organizing the ceremony of the House of Cinema.
Then a video-clip which had been produced at the previous year’s ceremony and in which the participants introduced themselves as members of the House of Cinema was screened. And then Pakdel commented: “Some of the people in the clip wouldn’t mind now seeing the House of Cinema annihilated. Actually we had a lot of discussions on whether or not the clip should be screened, and finally we decided to screen it as this is the national day of cinema. Managers always change; the only things that remain are the House of Cinema and the film art. Many people write in the media these days; but in the press you can not exhibit art, you can only demonstrate rhetoric. These hard days will be over and then our former friends will realize that they too belong to the House of Cinema.”
Then a short film made in tribute to Alireza Zarrindast, who was the manager of the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults from 1980 to 1991, was screened. Some of the people who had been active at the institute during Zarrindast’s tenure, including Abbas Kiarostami, Ahmad Reza Ahmadi, Noureddin Zarrinkelk, Ali Akbar Sadeqi, Fereshteh Taerpour, talked about him in the film.
After the screening of the clip Kiumars Pourahmad, secretary of the 15th Iranian Cinema National Awards Ceremony, talked about people for whom the tribute programs had been arranged: “Kamal Tabrizi is the person who created `Leily Is With Me’ and introduced satire in the war movie genre. Then he made `The Lizard’ which is a very good film. Masoud Behnam was the sound recordist on the fifth film made after the revolution. Then on `Specter of the Scorpion’ , the first film made by the private sector, he recorded sounds on the shooting set, and he had to fight the producer to be allowed to record sound simultaneously with the shooting. The sound recordists association thanked me for arranging this tribute, but I feel that it is me who should thank them” About Davoud Rashidi he said: “I made my first feature film, `Bibi Chelcheleh’ with Davoud Rashidi, and I must say that I enjoyed working with him and learnt many things from him. He was as dynamic in a close-up as he was in a long shot with a southern young boy so that the boy could learn to act well. Midway through the shooting of the film I had an argument with my assistant, and he left the project.  Rashidi stayed with me to the end and helped me a lot with difficult scenes that had to be shot with a large group of extras. I love Rashidi for his admirable personal traits.”
Referring to Alireza Zarrin’s services, Pourahmad said: “Managers should possess healthy mental and psychological set-ups to work the way he did. 20 years ago I traveled to Italy with Zarrin to attend  the festival of films for children. He carried only a small bag which for me became a symbol of the type of person he was. I am sure during the 10 days of the festival which was screening a retrospective of the Iranian films no one of the organizers of the festival ever guessed that the little man who stood in a corner was the producer of all those films. He shied away from publicity during all the years he worked as the manager. And on the day he was leaving he only said, if I did not succeed in adding anything to the Institute, I am sure I did not detract anything from it.”
He continued: “You added many things to the Institute, Mr. Zarrin. You founded the cinema for children at the Institute, while you worked with people like Bahram Beizai at a time when even talking about him was considered an offense.  If Mr. Zarrin had continued to work at the institute our animation cinema would have progressed abreast of the world animation. He never worked for personal recognition and he was gentle and affectionate in his treatment of his colleagues. Mr. Zarrin, your name will be durable in the cinema for children.”
Seyed Mohammad Beheshti, who had stepped on the stage to pay tribute to Zarrin, talked about his services: “When the clip on Mr. Zarrin was being screened I heard someone who said that it was much exaggerated. To that person I would like to say that if Zarrin’s type of management prevailed everywhere now our highways, our industry and economy and our agriculture would have been in a much better state. The presence of people like Zarrin nourishes in us the faith that things will finally improve. I hope we will have more managers like Mr. Zarrin”
Pakdel refereed to Beheshti’s period of management as the golden days of the Iranian cinema, and expressed the hope that the Iranian cinema will improve to the extent that it will one day pay tribute to him. In response Pourahmad said that the House of Cinema had organized a tribute program for Beheshti in one of its previous ceremonies and that he himself had made the clip for that program.
Ahmad Masjed Jamei who had come forward to praise Zarrin, thanked the House of Cinema and Pourahmad for having arranged a tribute program for him after all the years. He said: ‘Mr. Zarrin was at the helm of the Iranian cinema under very difficult conditions. But it is only under hard circumstances that the experience and wisdom of superior managers shine, and warm human relationships are developed. Mr. Zarrin worked at the Institute at a time when  work conditions were tough.”    
Mohammad Mehdi Asgarpour, managing director of the House of Cinema, congratulated filmmakers on the national day of cinema, and praised Alireza Zarrin: “Even if we were in a good cultural situation today – which is far from being the case – we would still have to praise Mr. Zarrin. He was a manager during the period which is still the pride of the Iranian cinema even as it goes through hard times.”
He continued: “On the occasion of the national day of cinema I wish to request every one in the family of filmmakers to assist their colleagues in the secretariat of the House of Cinema in carrying out some of the functions which should be carried out by the government officials and for which they exhibit no enthusiasm. Among these functions is are the issues of unemployment insurance and job security which has been expressly stated in the fourth development law and about which nothing has been done 2500 days after the date of the approval of the law. Although we are facing numerous hardships we have to follow up the issues while our government pursues its duties of global management to ensure unemployment insurance and job security for all poor peoples of the world, while we in the House of Cinema try to implement the law for our filmmakers.”
Alireza Zarrin thanked the organizers of the ceremony and referring to his period of management at the Institute for the Intellectual development of Children and Young Adults, he said: “I took over the responsibilities of a manager at the Institute under very especial circumstances. I was a young man of about 25 and I had no prior experience to preside over a staff of 2000-plus people. But I decided to continue the works of the previous manager such as creating libraries, making films and tapes and publishing books for children. Those were my guiding principles during my 13-year tenure.”
He continued: “I coordinated the works of people who were very capable. I had seen very little films, and during all the years of my management, I refrained from interfering in their works. Amir Naderi used to say to me `Make films if you can.’ I knew I could not do that and I only coordinating the works of people who knew how to do their job. I believed in the dictum that willing is the source of ability, and I was sure no one could be a manager forever. Fortunately, I could provide favorable conditions of work for those who wished to work.”
Emphasizing that all his activities were compatible with the law and even with the Islamic principles, he said: “All our activities were in accordance with the laws. I invited one of the best auditors from the Finance department to control all our financial proceedings. At that time work in the fields of music, art and filmmaking were not wholly authorized. And one of my jobs was to obtain authorizations from the relevant authorities, and to make sure that we were abiding by the Islamic precepts. The revolutionary council had given us an especial permit for filmmaking. Nothing illegal was ever done in those years, and all our activities were supervised by experts of the profession. I carried out my Islamic duty. I don’t believe I have done anything exceptional. I worked for children and young people.”
The ceremony continued with the screening of a film as tribute to Davoud Rashidi, and then Rasoul Sadr Ameli came forward and said: “In 1981 I made my first film with Davoud Rashidi. Many of the people working on that film were actually doing their first job. In the film, titled `The Release’ , Rashidi played a locomotive driver  who drove the first train into Khorramshahr. We have had many successes and many failures all through these years , and there have been many managers. My only wish at this ceremony is that we could avoid being divided into conflicting groups. We should still learn to be humble although we have become famous people.”
He continued: “Davoud Rashidi was raised in a cultured family and he had academic training. He was always frank, and one felt secure with him. For me he was always a good friend on whom I could rely. I hope he will be with us for many years to come.”
Jafar Vali also spoke in praise of Rashidi: “More than 50 years ago Rashidi’s mother gave me the good news that her son had studied theater and was returning to Iran. I performed in his fist stage production titled `Do You Want to Play With Me?’ and about which the late Forough Farrakhzad wrote a poem. That was a great experience for me as Davoud had returned with a new knowledge and understanding of theater and that provided very good opportunities for learning. I also played in his second work and I still wish to play in his stage productions.  He always has a candid presence and realizes the nobility of art, and he works with assurance and honesty as an artist.”
Mehdi Fakhimzadeh also talked about Rashid: “Many of the people who have gathered here are in one way or the other Rashidi’s students. Personally I was his student in the college of dramatic arts. The classes were so good that I and several other students also attended Rashidi’ classes in the college of fine arts. His teaching had such a strong impression on me that Esmail Shengeleh used to say that I was imitating Davoud.”   
Merila Zarei said: “I am too young and do not have enough experience to talk about Davoud Rashidi. On my way to the ceremony I wondered what could a student say in tribute to his master. I can only say that during my years of work with him I learnt many lessons in honesty, candor and truth from him. He taught me to abide by basic principles, and on behalf of all actors I bow before this great  and distinguished artist.”
After receiving his statuette Rashidi said: “I am too overwhelmed by emotions to talk much. I thank the House of Cinema, which is our house, and I am glad that I have been one of the first members of this institute.”
The poet Ahmad Reza Ahmadi, an old friend of Rashidi joined him on the stage and said: “During the past 20 to 30 years I left my house very little on account of my ill health. I left house twice to see Rashidi’s productions `Minus Two’ and `Who Is Mr. Smith?’ and tonight I had to come to his tribute program. During my youth Rashidi’s house in Bahar Street was a refuge for me and Amir Naderi who had not yet become a filmmaker. When I saw his play `Minus Two’ I decided to write plays. I talked to Rashidi about it and he encouraged me. I revised it 8 times and Rashidi read them and provided his views on how I could improve the play. On the 9th revision Mohammad Charmshir joined me, and I am hoping that it will go on stage in March. Actually Davoud does not know that I have written six more plays.”
And then Ali Dehkordi as a representative from the central council of the film actors association, read a message in tribute to Rashidi.
In continuation of the ceremony a short film on Masoud Behnam the veteran sound recordist was screened. Mohammad Ali Najafi, the film director stepped on the stage to pay tribute to Behnam and said: “If we believe that we are passing through a especial phase in the history of the Iranian cinema, then we should be aware of the importance of this period, of our own worth and that of the House of Cinema which is our own house.”
Hassan Zahedi the sound recordist referred to the fact that he was a student of Behnam and said: “Masoud Behnam was sound recordist on `The Specter of Scorpion’ long before I started work as assistant sound recordist with Jahangir Mir Shekari.
“We are grateful to you, Mr. Pourahmad, and the House of Cinema for having arranged tribute programs for people in the sound department.”
Es’haq Khanzadi, quoted several lines from the film “Kamal-ol-Molk” (directed by the late Ali Hatami on which he had worked as sound recordist) to the effect that not all heavenly bodies can be bright stars and then said: “Masoud Behnam is certainly a bright star in the sky of the Iranian cinema’s sound department before whom I bow with all humility.”
Fereshteh Taerpour also talked in praise of Masoud Behnam, saying: “Masoud Behnam is rightly considered a sound expert in the Iranian cinema. I am glad to be speaking at his tribute program and I hope that conditions in the Iranian cinema will prove to the extent that Masoud Behnam can focus only on teaching.”
Masoud Behnam recited a poem by Hafez, with few alterations to turn it into a comment on the cinema, and then said: “Perhaps you did not expect a sound recordist to recite poetry by heart, and change it to compliment filmmakers. So you  have to get all your laboratory work done in my studio. I pray to God that He may save us from pride and lies.” 
Maziar Sheikh  Mahboubi and Bahman Ardaalan as representatives of the sound recordists association also paid tribute to Behnam.
Sheikh  Mahboubi said: “As a representative of the sound recordists association I wish to congratulate all my fellow filmmakers. The usual practice is for students to receive approbation from the masters, but now I would like to pay tribute to Mr. Behnam for all he has taught me and his other students.”
Bahman Ardalan also said: “I and the other students of Mr. Behnam are greatly indebted to him. We will always be his students and I hope we will be worthy of using his experiences.”
Overwhelmed with emotions, Behnam said: “I am grateful to all my friends. I only wish Kianoush Ayyari could have attended the ceremony who has recently lost a loved one. I also wish Majid Sarrafi, who now works in Frankfurt television, could have been here.”
The ceremony continued with the screening of a short film by Houman Seyedi for the tribute program of Kamal Tabrizi which was well received by the audience. Manouchehr Mohammadi stepped on the stage with his grandchild and said: “I brought my grandchild along to remind you that I too am getting old and you have to be thinking of arranging a tribute for me. Kamal Tabrizi is my friend of over 30 years. He is the epitome of a good-humored Muslim. Nowadays it is customary for people to be dour-looking and utter words that burn with the fire of criticism.  Tabrizi is on the contrary a benign and smiling Muslim, and is not given to chastising people. He has been in the war and yet he makes `Leily Is With Me’; he is a devout Muslim and he makes `The Lizard’ and he makes `The Reward’ on Hajj pilgrimage. He demonstrates the true Islamic behavior and that is a laudable thing.”
Mohammad Reza Honarmand also expressed satisfaction that people laughed during the screening of the film and said: “I am glad to have come on the stage for the tribute to a person who has made a gift of laughter to the Iranians.”
Reza Mir Karimi also remarked that the last clip was the best that had been screened and said: “This was a very enjoyable clip. When I think of Kamal, the first thing that comes to mind is his smile which conveys hope and optimism although it hides a secret sorrow. He is a friend of all of us, like a sweet SMS message in dark hours.”
Reza Kianian also talked about Tabrizi and said: “Kamal Tabrizi enjoys everything, like the family, drinking water and eating food. During the few films I made with him I enjoyed my time both in front of the camera and behind it.”
Kamal Tabrizi thanked the organizers of the ceremony and the people who appeared in his tribute clip and said: “I see myself at the end of the line of people for whom tribute programs should be organized. Although we are having a feast, I have to express a sorrow that is in my heart. For the first time we have had people who were sent to jail and have been banned from making films. This has had a bad effect on all of us. Under the circumstances when some people are not allowed to make films or can receive production license with great difficulties, some other people have no problems in making film. This type of discrimination is hard to bear. This is not deserving of the prestige of the Iranian cinema.”
He continued: “If you look up the word Iran in the dictionary you will see that it means `the land of noble people’. In this land of noble people filmmakers and artists are ill-treated, and this is called kindness. There many people who like me have not received screening license for their films. Why should this happen?  We are only saying that we should be good people and avoid behavior that is harmful to the country. And for that reason we are denied screening license.”
Tabrizi emphasized: “Nevertheless we should not despair. Now that we can not talk to the authorities we will talk to God for He does not like the oppressors and helps the oppressed. God will certainly hear us. We are all people who will remain in our jobs.  The authorities come and go. That is why I say `The others will always go and we remain, and I hope we will always remain, while the others go.”






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