|Iranian film The President. Photo courtesy of the Freer and Washington Post.|
Arts Desk: Can you tell me about the start of the festival? How has it evolved since then?
Tom Vick: The festival began 20 years ago (before my time), at the height of the Iranian New Wave, when directors like [Abbas] Kiarostami, [Mohsen] Makhmalbaf, etc., were getting a lot of attention for the creative and poetic ways they found to make artistic—and sometimes subversive—films despite Iran's strict censorship.
For many years, this mode seemed to dominate Iranian filmmaking, but I have noticed in recent years that Iranian directors are clearly being exposed to more kinds of films from around the world, and the style and subjects of their films are changing accordingly. In addition, the Green Revolution inspired some directors to take more bold political stances. One thing that hasn't changed over the years is the devotion of the local Iranian community. They come out in droves for the festival, and always express their appreciation.
For those not that familiar with Iranian film, would you say the movies being shown this year have some common characteristics? Does that depend on if the film was made in Iran under the country's rules, or by an Iranian filmmaker working elsewhere?