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House of Cinema’s Managing Director said: “Our activities in 1389 will focus on welfare.”

 He also regretted the fact that the objective of providing insurance for the jobless has remained unrealized, and that 38 percent of the annual budget was not paid, and pointed out that in the coming year Farhad Towhidi will be the secretary of the  feast of the House of Cinema.

The first news session of the board of directors of the House of Cinema in 13 89 (March 21, 2010 – March 20, 2011) was held on Monday, April 12 In the presence of Mohammad Mahdi Asgarpour (chairman of the board and managing director), Amin Tarokh (speaker of the board of directors of the House of Cinema) and Farhad Towhidi (vice-chairman of the board of directors).
Asgarpour: Most of the activities in 1388 focused on social welfare.
Asgarpour began by wishing a happy New Year for all Iranians, especially the film community, and said: “In going over the report of activities of the House of Cinema in 1388, published a few days ago, we have to remember that we had a very tumultuous year. Many areas of activities came almost to a standstill; nevertheless we had very fruitful activities.”
Citing the trip of a group from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to Iran, and the visit of an Iranian delegation to the Academy, as well as the presence of representatives of the exhibition guild council in France, he said: “In spite of such programs it seems that the predominant aspect of the activities of the House of Cinema in 1388, was related to the social welfare.
“Unfortunately sometimes our criterion for the evaluation of the activities of a guild society is restricted to the arrangement of a festival. It is true of course that the organizing of the festival is part of our job, but that does not mean the festival should be the sole basis for the evaluation of our activities. As you are aware the 13th festival’s most eye-catching programs were the tributes paid to several prominent filmmakers.”

Most of the activities in 1389 will also be focused on social welfare.
The managing director of the House of Cinema continued by enumerating the activities of the House in 1389, and said: “For the current year a major portion of our activities will revolve around the welfare issue. As you are well aware there are different view points on the issue and most of them are related to the government’s attitude toward the guild societies.
“I suppose you all agree that we are not confronted with a single and well-formulated attitude, and this is not restricted to recent years and has prevailed for many years.”

Government’s outlook on the guild system is not well defined.
Asgarpour emphasized that the government’s outlook on the guild system is not well defined, especially in the sphere of arts and culture, and said: “We are not sure whether the government considers trade guilds as the means of its contact with the people or believes that such societies only perform ornamental roles. If we were to survey the past 20 years we would discover that there have been many ups and downs in this connection and that as a result we have suffered many losses.”
Referring to the damages caused by this attitude and the ups and downs, he discussed the issue of the welfare and said: “Government officials mostly disclaim any responsibility and consider it as one of the responsibilities of the guild system. They certainly can claim this is one of the responsibilities of the House of Cinema, while the House of Cinema can in turn claim this is beyond its means and that it is not among its duties.
“As it is the parcel of activities that were formed in the previous year, it has to be followed up in earnest. For the current year also we will follow up the insurance for joblessness, and the social welfare for the members. And as we believed we would need consultative assistance, we have even broached the issue at international gatherings, and interestingly at the international level, it seems like a joke that 30 years after the triumph of the Revolution, which we claim is a cultural revolution, we have not yet settled issues like insurance and welfare.”
Asgarpour expressed regret and continued by talking about the living conditions of some artists: “When we find out about their lives, we can only deplore that they are totally neglected, while we know that the government cabinet accompany the President in his trips to the provinces, as if they were only intended to provide decorative companionship.”
Emphasizing the issue of job security, he talked of several projected workshops in cinematography, screenwriting and production planning, and said that probably one of the workshops will be on cinematography and will be held abroad.

Farhad Towhidi Selected as Secretary of the Fourteenth Festival of Cinema
In another part of the session, Asgarpour introduced Farhad Towhidi as secretary of the 14th Festival of Cinema.
In another part he referred to the International Standard Audiovisual Number (ISAN) and said: “It is important to note that ISAN has accepted the House of Cinema as its representative in Iran, and thus we can hope that part of the vacuum regarding the registration of copyrights of art works will be filled. As I pointed out earlier the institute registers copyrights for all types of audio-visual works and thus even those who work outside the field of cinema can have their works registered.”
Asgarpour also said that efforts were being made to obtain ISAN representation in the entire Middle East.

It is not a question of a certain deputy or general director.
The session continued with a press conference in which the managing director of the House of Cinema answered the reporters’ questions. In response to the question about the absence of a representative from the House of Cinema in meetings for the issuance of film production licenses, Asgarpour said: “The totality of activities of a guild institution and its relationship with the government has a long history which we all know. And as I pointed out there has always been an uncertainty in this regard. The uncertainty concerns not only the issuance of license but also in issues related to the budget and many other points. I do not wish to blame any specific official. What is important for me is the necessity of correcting the situation.”
Government strategies require legislative approaches.
Asgarpour continued: “If we had been told from the beginning that the presence of a House of Cinema representative is not necessary for the issuance of the license, everything would have been clear and we would know that the new directors wish to control everything themselves. But we have to realize that any government method or policy requires legislative approaches, and that for the execution of any method the legal aspects have to be considered too. They could have at least altered the charter which had been approved by the board of ministers appointed by the President who has been elected by people’s votes.
“They can alter the charter at any time, but that would not be an acceptable approach and would create a wrong historical precedent.”
He continued by saying: “There are other issues about which you may not be quite informed. But it is true that at times the issues are partly corrected by people of good taste, while at other times, the issues take a more undesirable turn by people of not very good tastes.”
I wish their crimes were clearly announced.
In response to questions about arrested filmmakers, Asgarpour said: “Maybe they have committed crimes. But I wish we were told about what they have done so that filmmakers, including myself know how to answer questions on the topic when we are asked about them in our trips abroad.”
He also referred to a number of releases and said that the House of Cinema had made efforts for the realization of the releases.
I know nothing about the high council of cinema other than what I have read in the press.
Concerning the high council of cinema he said: “About this I know as much as you do and perhaps less. I have read about it in the press, and I know that the deputy minister for cinema has announced it, but I have no idea about the composition of the council, and we have had no contact in this connection. For the moment we can only wait to find out about the composition of the council and then perhaps we can talk about it.”

We have not yet received 38 percent of our budget for the previous year.
In another part of the session the managing director of the House of Cinema referred to the issue of the budget of the House of Cinema and said: “We did not received 38 percent of the budget for the past year and I have been told that there have been similar cuts in other sections. I really don’t know whether or not that has really happened. But I do know that our entire budget is equal to the production of one film or perhaps a little more. And I would really like to know how much any government organ would need if they were to carry out all of the functions of the House of Cinema.”
In continuation, Asgarpour said in response to questions about banned films or projects that are not carried out even though they have received production license, and also about why the House of Cinema makes no protest, “We have to consider the House of Cinema as a common assumption, and ask what the House of Cinema is. For the moment we have 29 trade guilds each of which has to be active in their specific sphere. If there is any problem regarding the actors then their trade guild has to take action. And as regards the banned films I suppose this falls within the responsibility of the producers or directors guilds. If we were to take any action in this connection, then we might create problems for the other guilds as well, and I suppose this would be to the liking of those who wish to see us fight among ourselves.”
In response to a question by ISNA news agency concerning the outcome of the agreements concluded with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Asgarpour said: “The workshops that have been planned are the outcome of the agreement. But you know very well that arranging workshops, especially in the sphere of cinema in which everybody would like to discover problems could create difficulties.
“To arrange the workshops we have to bring undesirable foreigners among ourselves or we have to go to the foreigners. There is also a third alternative. In other words we could travel together with the undesirable foreigners to a third country. And that is probably what we will have to do for the workshop for cinematographers.”
As regards the restoration of the films, which had been arranged to be done by the delegation from the Academy, the Managing director of the House of Cinema said: “The House of Cinema is not authorized to take any action in this regard, because the films are not in our hands. The films are in the custody of the National Film Archive, and besides we do not have the necessary means for dispatching the films or returning them. But we are prepared to act as a mediator between the two parties. When the Academy delegation proposed the task we felt it would be rather complicated to explain the situation to them so we said that we accept the proposition. And that is what has been reported by the media.”

Preparations are underway for the trip to India.
In continuation Asgarpour said in response to questions regarding the trip of members of the House of Cinema to India, “I do not mean to connect everything to the budget, but preparations for the trip to India are underway. When we talk about the Indian cinema we have to keep in mind that we are talking about a national cinema that has acquired different aspects in the world and that its facilities are approaching the extent of what is at the disposal of Hollywood. And this can afford a great lesson for us if we wish to create an industrialized cinema.”

Appreciating several policies by Farabi
The managing director of the House of Cinema continued by saying: “In spite of our criticism, I wish to express my appreciation for a number of policies adopted by Farabi Cinema Foundation. One of these policies is presence of the Iranian film market at international festivals. Some people ask whether it is really necessary to be present in all world festivals and some people ask if any results are obtained from participation in these markets. Personally I believe it is essential that we participate in these markets and present our films. And I suppose it is a legitimate question to ask about the benefits of the markets.
“Another positive point is the fact that we have been able to launch an interaction with Farabi, and thus some of our members have been able to attend Cannes and Berlin festivals last year, and I hope the trend will continue in the coming Cannes festival.”
No Interaction Among Organs
In response another question regarding the House of Cinema’s silence on the issue of raising cinema ticket prices, Asgarpour said: “I attended several meetings of the exhibition guild council and I know that many factors are involved. Raising ticket prices is not a new issue, and we only witness the outcome, namely, the higher ticket prices. At any rate there seems to be no other alternative and the council, which includes representatives from various guilds, does not wish to create circumstances that would dissuade people from going to the movies, which ultimately hurt all of them.
“We do not have good impressions from government sponsorship for the film screenings, but it could be effective.”
On the issue of low quality films that are distributed fro home viewings and the House of Cinema’s reaction to the trend, Asgarpour said: “There is now no interaction between organs. As a matter of fact even films that go on the public screens are mostly of very low quality. At any rate it is up to the producers to do something.
“Producers should also be concerned about the skyrocketing of the actors’ salaries, or about films that never get a chance to go on the screens although they have been given exhibition license. This is the usual practice all over the world.”
In another part of the session and in response to a question concerning the TV channels, Asgarpour said: “Our TV channels’ insistence in attracting film actors is unprecedented in the world. Apparently they now cancel TV projects that fail to attract popular stars. And I feel that the situation can not be changed unless there are understanding relationships among concerned parties.”

Conflicts are the salt of the business.
In response to questions about his conflicts with government officials and if there will be an end to the conflicts, he said: “The conflicts are really the salt of the business. I feel that some of the interest of the affairs would be lost if any proposal is accepted on the spot. So don’t be waiting for the end of the conflicts; they help to enliven the atmosphere and would serve as a lesson for the next generation.”
To the question of why he had accompanied the government officials at the closing ceremony of Fajr International Film Festival, Asgarpour said: “I used to be the managing director of Farabi Cinema Foundation which sponsors the festival, and besides I felt that the House of Cinema should be present at the ceremony. But I wish that presence had led to the resolution of some problems which it did not. Besides difference of opinion does not mean gunfight and ultimately all differences should be resolved by negotiations.”
In response to the question about the complaint lodged against the film director Farajollah Salahshour, he also said: “That case is taking its legal course and we sometimes attend the court proceedings, and if the matter is followed up then we will take back our complaint.”

The root of the problems at the guilds council is economic.
To the question about the problems of the guild council, Asgarpour said: “The root of the problems at the guilds council is economic and not cultural. With the increase in the number of screening halls the problems could aggravate. I believe the differences are based on a simple formula and as long as the economics of art are controlled by the government, such differences are to be expected.
“There are now 29 trade guilds in the House of Cinema, and usually there are no differences unless the interests of some of the members are at risk. As regards the differences at the producers’ guild we often organize sessions and reach agreements, but then after the session one producer changes his mind and the differences continue. But if the relationship between the private and the public sector is founded on firmer grounds then individual members can not create problems, relying on their connections with the government sector or the House of Cinema.”
Asgarpour also pointed out: “As long as the government has not reached the conclusion that it needs the assistance of a guild institution as an intermediary with the people, such arguments will go on, and they will hurt both the guilds and perhaps the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.”

Amin Tarokh also talked about the long-standing differences among the producers and said: “Some of the problems are at times brought up at the meetings of the board of directors with some concern, and sometimes they are real problems.
A lot of efforts have been made in this connection, some of which were carried out by the previous board of directors of the House of Cinema. In my view because of the lack of a clear policy the problems are worsening day by day.”
Tarokh continued by presenting a historical survey of the efforts done by the House of Cinema in this connection; “Our efforts for the resolution of the problem led to the creation of a fourth institution under the title of Society of Independent Producers, and there have been more meetings. So I believe the problem can be resolved only when the producers adopt a cooperative attitude.”

Farhad Towhidi, vice-chairman of the board of directors of the House of Cinema also talked during the session: “I hope this will be the last session in which we wish for the release of Jafar Panahi.”
The director of the screenwriters guild continued: “The House of Cinema has done a lot for the release of all arrested filmmakers and has written to many government authorities, but so far there has been no result. So I hereby request the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who said Iran is the freest country in the world, to accord top priority to the fate of the imprisoned filmmakers.”
Referring to the fact that he had been appointed as secretary of the 14th Feast of the House of Cinema, Farhadi said: “After I closed down the 13th feast without arousing too much attention it was assumed by my friends that I could do the same in case any problem arose for the 14th edition. But I hope that will not happen and that we will organize the 14th edition satisfactorily.”
Regarding the regulations of the feast he explained: “Representatives from the guilds have already been selected from various guilds, so that an independent organ would be responsible for the organization of the feast from now on. There has been some progress, but there will be need for more meetings and hopefully the charter will be prepared so that as of next year the feasts will be arranged on the basis of that charter.”
Concerning the exhibition of the capabilities of the Iranian cinema he said: “The exhibition is to be set up alongside of the feast of the House of Cinema. We have already discussed the matter with our sponsors and we hope to face fewer financial problems this year.”
Towhidi concluded by talking about the transformation of the script bank to the bank of cinematic works, and said: “After the scheme has been finalized the bank will register not only film scripts, but other works such as set and costume designs, and even audio-visual works produced by radio and TV channels. He said that further details would be announced at the coming session.


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