Inside Iranian Cinema (Part 1/3)


[MUSIC – THE NORMAL,
“WARM LEATHERETTE”] SHANE SMITH: In Western
mainstream media right now, we’re hearing a lot about
Islamic fundamentalism, nuclear proliferation,
rogue states. And public enemy number
one is Iran. BRET BAIER: The Iranians are
moving forward with their nuclear program quicker
than expected. -Iran’s President is warning it
is too late to stop Iran’s nuclear program. -Iran basically has a strategy
to dominate the region. DAN GILLERMAN: What I
can tell you is that Iran must be stopped. SHANE SMITH: Now, it’s
interesting to us that on one hand you have footage like this
from Fox News saying that Iran is an imminent threat. But on the other hand, you have
all these films coming out where critics are saying,
hey, these are some of the best films coming
out right now. They’re beautiful, they’re
amazing, they’re great. So how is it that we have
on one side an Islamic fundamentalist state,
but on the other all these amazing movies? We had to go to Iran and
find out the truth behind Iranian cinema. [MUSIC PLAYING] SHANE SMITH: Now, getting into
Iran as a journalist is nearly impossible. They have a very bad reputation
with journalists. Many have been arrested, a lot
have been tortured, and some have even been killed. In fact, there’s a World Press
Freedom Index, and Iran is number 166. Right at the back of the bus
with only the worst offenders like Turkmenistan, North
Korea, Eritrea and Cuba ahead of it. Now what scared me personally
about going into Iran as a journalist was that
I knew two things. One is that Zahra Kazemi, a
Canadian journalist who got into Iran, was kidnapped,
raped, and beaten to death in 2003. And that our friend Ben Anderson
from the BBC, who did “Holidays in the Axis of Evil,”
went in with a handycam and was kidnapped and tortured
for a week before they kicked him out without his tapes. So we didn’t want to go
in with a handycam. And we didn’t want to sneak
in like we usually do. So we tried for about a year
and a half to get into the country legitimately. And finally, the producers of
the Third International Urban Film Festival got us our visas,
arranged for us to be able to bring in the cameras,
and did the impossible and got us into Iran. [MUSIC PLAYING] [POLICE HORN] SHANE SMITH: Uh oh. What was that? That was cops. -No. No, no, no. -No, no, no. Yeah, I know. SHANE SMITH: I don’t know if we
got that do-da-lu on thing, but if the cops see a camera,
they can turn their bloopers on. We’re waiting for permission
to shoot outside, so we’re shooting from the car,
which we’re not supposed to do either. -What’d he say? -Police. Police. SHANE SMITH: Why don’t they
want people shooting? -With your small camera, you
don’t have any problem. It’s just the size of the
camera that makes it professional as a journalist. When you have a big camera, you
need to have permission. SHANE SMITH: Can I shoot with
this guy around, or no? -It’s better not to do it now. SHANE SMITH: We were told from
the first day we got there that we weren’t allowed to shoot
anything that didn’t have to do with film. And they warned us that we could
be arrested if we shot anything that had to do with
police, military or the government, which is basically
everything in Iran. The only places we could really
shoot freely were when we were indoors, or things that
were directly sponsored by the Film Festival, and even
then it wasn’t easy. We’re about to meet the
coordinator of the Film Festival here. And on the way here, we were
told that we’re being watched. And they talk a lot
about our beards. They want to know if we got
beards just to come here and why we’re dressed
the way we are. Why we’re so dressed up. But we were told
to wear suits. So there’s all kinds of
undercurrents that we don’t know anything about. So we’re trying to
be good baby boys and not get in trouble. So we were nervous. We were freaked out. We got there and he
had a nice office. We sat down and it was kind of
like talking to a super cool Omar Sharif or something. ALI REZA SHOJA-NOORI: Hello. SHANE SMITH: Hi. ALI REZA SHOJA-NOORI:
How are you? SHANE SMITH: Good,
how are you? ALI REZA SHOJA-NOORI: Fine. SHANE SMITH: Good to see you. ALI REZA SHOJA-NOORI: Thanks
for dropping by. SHANE SMITH: Ali Reza
Shoja-Noori was one of the guys who’s responsible for
taking Iranian cinema to all the film festivals during
the ’80s and ’90s. ALI REZA SHOJA-NOORI: For
myself, that I was promoting the Iranian films abroad. Then came the big question– do we have any place
in the world? Is anyone waiting
for our cinema? And the first film that we
succeeded was “Frosty Roads.” ’86, I think– ’85, ’86. It went to Berlin
Film Festival. And when I saw the response of
the audience there, I found out that yes, it’s possible
to do that. And then we went to do other
films and other festivals. At that time we made one
objective for us that we are going for a day that there would
be no festival in the world without an Iranian film. And we got to that point. SHANE SMITH: Is there
a big culture of going to the cinema? ALI REZA SHOJA-NOORI: Yes. SHANE SMITH: A big culture
of going to watch movies? ALI REZA SHOJA-NOORI: Yes. The Iranian people like
films very much. Very, very much. They like the school of their
children and they like cinema. [MUSIC PLAYING] SHANE SMITH: The next place
they took us was to Khaneh Cinema, or “The House of Iranian
Cinema.” And there we walked into kind of a really
surreal situation. Because even though most
American films are banned in Iran, they had invited the
American Academy Awards people over for the first time in 35
years to exchange information on film and film festivals. So we walk into the building
and the president of the Academy, Sid Ganis
is over here. Oh, there’s Annette Bening,
who we had heard in the Western media before flying
to Iran had been arrested. And forced to apologize to the
Iranian people for the Hollywood propaganda of films
like the “300,” “The Wrestler,” and “Not Without
My Daughter.” Meanwhile, we go to the House of
Cinema and there they are. Everybody’s having
lunch together. There’s no problems. Everybody really likes
each other. This is going to get
super weird. They’re going to wonder
who the hell we are. We’re going to totally
crash this lunch. He wants to ask what the
fuck we’re doing here. We just pretend to be Iranian. [MUSIC PLAYING] SHANE SMITH: So here they’re
just shooting around. And the Americans thought we
were Iranian secret police. And the Iranians thought we
just knew each other. -Let’s go. SHANE SMITH: That was great. Before leaving the House of
Cinema, we went downstairs to check out their filmmaker’s
library. And when we were there, we asked
one of the board members what he thought about this whole
apologizing business. -[SPEAKING PERSIAN] SHANE SMITH: So who asked
them to apologize? -[SPEAKING PERSIAN] -[SPEAKING PERSIAN] SHANE SMITH: So that was our
first freaky glimpse into how crazy and how much propaganda
there is that surrounds everything about Iran. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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