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Report on the Second Session of the Assembly of High Counselors of the Association of the Iranian Film Guilds

Report on the Second Session of the Assembly of High Counselors of the Association of the Iranian Film Guilds
 Privatization in Cinema: Possible or Impossible
The Second Session of the Assembly of High Counselors of the Association of the Iranian Film Guilds was held on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 in the Vesal Street building of the House of Cinema. During the session the heads of specialized work groups presented reports of the activities of their respective groups, and stated the concerns and problems of the various film guilds and of the film industry in general.
Mohammad Mahdi Asgarpour, managing director of the House of Cinema and chairman of the session referred to the issue of job security as the main concern of the film community, once again emphasizing the top priority of the issue and introducing it as one of the strategic and principle objectives of the House of Cinema, although certain members in the first session had objected to the decision to according top priority to the issue under the prevailing circumstances. Referring to the formation of three work groups that had been proposed and approved in the first session, Asgarpour said: “Two of the work groups had held sessions. Work groups for privatization and for delineating the House of Cinema’s relations with centers of government authorities have held sessions, but the work group for the expansion of the House of Cinema’s financial sources has not yet held a session.” Asgarpour also emphasized the necessity for the formation of a work group for drawing up technical-national standards with a view to taking advantage of the new technology, and introduced Mr. Taqipour as the head of the new work group, and asked the heads of all work groups to present reports  on their sessions to the assembly of counselors.”

Need for the Formation of Economic Agency in the House of Cinema
Mostafa Razzaq Karimi, head of the privatization work group, referred to the two sessions held by his group and mentioned three points of view regarding privatization in film industry. There is the view point that sees no chance for privatization in cinema of which the beginning and the end is controlled by the government. Razzaq Karimi then referred to the obstacles on the path of the privatization and said: “The greatest obstacle is the lack of confidence in government authorities regarding the private sector in the cultural area, although the participation of the private sector in the cultural field has been emphasized in the 20-year plan and the article 44 of the constitution. The second concern is related to the possibility of embezzlement in the private sector which threatens cinema as well. In view of the above problems Razzaq Karimi discussed the privatization work group’s proposal for the formation of an economic institute of agency whose benefits would be shared by all people in the film industry. The agency could be formed parallel with the House of Cinema and with the participation of all guilds and would use its financial resources for the welfare of the members in the form of insurance for joblessness, retirement, funds for marriage and housing. We could also take advantage of the mechanism of sponsorship to pool in idle financial resources in the society and use them for the development of the film art and industry. Huge resources are now available in the commercial and agricultural sectors, and even if small percentages of those resources are absorbed by the agency, great improvement could be brought about in the film industry’s economic turnover. There are also financial resources in the government sector, such as the 3 percent of the ministries’ budget which have to be used for cultural objectives. Also recently there has been talk of one thousand loans of 50 million for artists and for the moment no specific institution has been assigned to implement the project. By absorbing such idle resources the economic agency could greatly assist in the development of the cinema.” He continued by saying that the agency could act as the intermediary between the government sector and the House of Cinema. It could absorb all such idle capital resources and gradually turn them over to the filmmakers. He also pointed out: “We have to make sure the agency does not turn into an economic rival for the private sector.”

Content Supervision According to Personal Bias Is Cinema’s Main Problem

But film producer Taqipour said in connection with Razzaq Karimi’s  speech: “I am not quite sure what is meant by privatization in cinema. If it means the cycle of operation should be owned by the private sector, then it is obvious to me that such a thing is not possible, because the cycle of operation in cinema is not in our hands.   In my opinion privatization in our country should mean the owners of ideas should be able to realize their ideas and present them to the viewers. I believe the cinema’s main problem is the supervision of film contents and not the participation of the private sector in the management of the film affairs. If the red lines of the screening and evaluation department are made clear and legalized, then we could hope for privatization in cinema. For the moment our cinema is operating according to the pattern set be the TV networks, i.e., making films it is expected to make.”
In other parts  of his speech Taqipour said: “In my view cinema is a sacred phenomenon. We are now living in an age that is very similar to the time when man invented writing. Writing the words started in the Mesopotamia for the purpose of transferring people’s experiences to others.  At the time writing was invented no one anticipated the tool would exert such an important influence on the human lives. Now the image is playing the same role, and human communications are gradually becoming confined to images. The House of Cinema can not administer all of the affairs related to filmmaking, but it could take a lofty position at the pinnacle and act as a source of assistance and a pattern of action.”

Privatization in Cinema will have no result before it has been implemented in the  society in General.
Homayoun As’adian continued on similar lines and said: “Privatization in cinema will have no result before it has been implemented in the society in general.
Therefore, in my view the methods of work proposed by the privatization work group will not be so effective under the present circumstances. On the other hand, if someone is able to absorb idle financial resources, they will use the resources for the execution of their own plans and objectives rather than turning them over to an agency whose partners are not clearly defined and it could prepare grounds for embezzlement.”
In another part of his speech As’adian said: “One of the most urgent tasks facing the House of Cinema at the moment is whether it should go along with the government policies in the domain of cinema or stand up to the government’s policies when they are against the interest of the cinema.”

Strengthening the Guilds: Approach for Privatization
In his speech film producer Qasem Qolipour called privatization a vague concept and asked: “Is privatization a program of action or an aim and objective? I believe that if we had program of action and efficient people in every sphere, then the government will commission us to carry out its programs and cinematic projects. What the government gains in this approach is the promotion of culture and ethics. The government can not train filmmakers or produce films by issuing directives. So if the House of Cinema’s member guilds are strong and efficient, they will automatically gain the control of the affairs. I believe the government’s assigning financial resources for the production of a cinematic work is not a non-private affair.”

Nature of the Relationship Between the House of Cinema and the Department of Cinematic Affairs Is not Clear
Seyed Jamal Sadatian, the film producer, referred to the interaction between the House of Cinema and the Department of the Cinematic Affairs and said: “Is the deputy minster of cinematic affairs the commander and we are counted as his soldiers or is the deputy influenced by the House of Cinema and is there a reciprocal relation? In my view our relations with the government centers that draw up policies should be defined more clearly so that we know what we are supposed to do and what objectives we should pursue?”

The House of Cinema Should Negotiate with the Uppermost Government Levels
Ali Moallem, head of the work group for defining the House of Cinema’s relations with the government centers, said: “Lack of financial resources was, and still is, the most important factor which prevents the House of Cinema from implementing its policies and achieving its objectives. There has always been two trends in connection with the House of Cinema: outright attack from the outside and inside influences, the latter being much more prominent in recent years. In my opinion the House of Cinema should raise the level of its contacts with the government centers from the level of the department of cinematic affairs, and try to reach the government in a more general form. The House of Cinema should not limit its relations to the lower or medium range government managers; it should consider its role on the national level and expand it to the entire social concerns.”
Moallem pointed out that, “At the moment the most important task facing the House of Cinema is to clarify its position towards the regulations which are drawn up and imposed on it. Otherwise film art will lose its artistic and free spirit and will be turned into a low-grade profession acting on commissions.”
He also added that: “Members of the House of Cinema should not only be concerned with their guild problems, and should also think about the national problems facing the cinema. In other words, apart from the pursuit of guild problems,  the House of Cinema should also consider the general issue of the film industry in the country and try to find ways of resolving them.
“Negotiations and interactions will always bring about positive and effective results. Usually we lose our temper easily and strike an antagonistic attitude, instead of engaging in talks. This of course requires a strong legislative tribune which will accord us legal tools to demand our rights.” 

The House of Cinema’s Authority Should Be Legalized
Film critic Javad Tousi confirmed Ali Moallem’s views and said: “We have to prepare necessary conditions to strengthen the House of Cinema’s  position, and to do that we have to discover the vulnerable points. One of the vulnerable points is the House of Cinema’s failure to promote cooperation and coordination among its members, and this is aggrandized and taken advantage by the outsiders. In my opinion the various work groups have to find out ways of preparing legal foundations for the House of Cinema’s authority. This will allow the House of Cinema to use its capabilities for the attainment of its objectives.”
In the second part of his speech Tousi emphasized that “The groups should follow their work in accordance with a plan if they wish to gain effective results. One of our priorities should ne to determine the nature and identity of the private sector. The private sector has no meaning if its audience is not clarified, and the House of Cinema should act as a bridge between the government and the people.”
He also pointed out to the necessity of the private sector and the House of Cinema having a role in drawing up screening schedule for films, and lamented the fact that the House of Cinema is not performing a role in this connection.

Intra-Group Consensus, The House of Cinema’s First Need
The documentary filmmaker Ebrahim Mokhtari, confirming the views expressed by Moallem and Tousi, emphasized the importance of the House of Cinema’s authority and concordance among the members and guilds, and said that privatization would be impossible without such a concord.

The House of Cinema’s Structure Requires Basic Revision
Film director Abolhassan Davoudi criticized discussions on surface issues and emphasized the need for dealing with the structural and basic problems of the House of Cinema. He said: “The House of Cinema’s relation with the government in recent years can be likened to two naïve chess players who move pieces without really knowing what they are doing and sometimes make brilliant moves, although no significant results is ever achieved, because there is no worked out ideas behind the moves. The structure really requires a surgical operation. One could adopt a precarious stance and move along without any basic structural changes. But in my opinion such a procedure will not get us very far. Basically the House of Cinema represents a conjunction of opposites which will never reach a harmonious unity. I really believe the House of Cinema needs such a surgery even though it could be paralyzed for some time in the aftermath of such an operation. So in my view under the circumstances interaction with the government and even resistance against the demands of the government will have no positive results for the House of Cinema.”

Procedural Reminder: Avoid Generalizations
Mostafa Sayesteh, the film producer, criticized discussions on general and vague issues coupled with metaphors and satire, and asked everyone to be precise and objective in their discussions. “If we are to reach objective and practicable solution,” he said, “then we have to avoid vague and abstract generalizations and deal with tangible problems faced the House of Cinema’s guilds. Such an approach has the added advantage of avoiding one-sided conclusions for the resolution of our problems.”

The House of Cinema’s Charter Needs Revision
Dr. Zarrinkelk from the animation filmmakers’ guild considered the determination of the union’s professional identity one of the important issues of the House of Cinema. He said: “None of the guilds considers itself as a real and effective member of the House of Cinema. The House of Cinema should take all its members under its wings. This will create in the members a sense of belonging to the House of Cinema and then they will not be indifferent to its problems. The House of Cinema should hold sessions with the participation of all of its members and create in them the feeling that they can perform effective roles in the management of the House of Cinema. The charter of the House of Cinema needs a fundamental revision and change especially in its relationship with its members.”

The House of Cinema’s Authority Dependent on Concord Among Members and their Collaboration for the Realization of Its Chartered Objectives

Asgarpour the session’s chairman referred to the problems of the House of Cinema under the prevailing circumstances and the proposed solutions and said: “Internal disagreement in two of the most important member guilds, i.e. the producers and directors guilds, will possibly affect all the other guilds. Division in the producers guild could be transferred to other guilds and we have actually had requests for separation form the fund which is amazing. Unfortunately this has become a contagious malaise and we have to prevent its spread, because otherwise individual interests will predominate group interests and then the House of Cinema could lose its true identity. The authority of the House of Cinema for the realization of its objectives resides precisely in greater agreement and coordination among its members.”

The House of Cinema Is Effective Even in its Present Conditions
Film producer Gholamreza Mousavi also said: “It is true that the House of Cinema as the union of film guilds should have a more coherent organization, but even in its present form the institution has had many external effects in the past 12 years. Despite all of its possible shortcomings and weaknesses, the fact that we can have sessions like this to discuss our problems proves that we have a very prominent role in the overall management of the cinematic affairs of the country and that we can gradually establish our points of view. The experience of the past few years shows that this is a realizable objective. We could at least attain parts of our demands even if we can not achieve all of our aims.”

Final Scene

Asgarpour, Managing director of the House of Cinema and chairman of the meeting, concluded the session by announcing that the most important points brought up in the session will be discussed in a meeting of the board of directors in which plan of operation for some of them will be prepared. Asgarpour once again asked the work groups to continue their work with confidence and determination. He requested them to hold continuous sessions to classify the House of Cinema’s demands and propose ways of attaining them.  In the end Asgarpour announced that the third session of the high counselors of the House of Cinema will be held in early spring.
Apart from the members of the board of directors of the House of Cinema, the following people attended the session: Morteza Shayesteh, Mostafa Shayesteh, Gholamreza Mousavi, Javad Tousi, Iraj Taqipour, Noureddin Zarrinkelk, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Jamal Sadatian, Abolhassan Davoudi, Ali Moallem, Nezamoddin Kiaie, Mohammad Reza Moini, Mahdi Karampour, Qasem Qolipour, Homayoun As’adian.


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