After the 2011 retrospective of work by Shirdel in Sydney, this socially conscious film maker has enjoyed a resurgence of attention online and in a series of retrospectives not the least of which was one in conjunction with Iran Modern late last year, at the Asia Society New York, USA. Iranian documentary film maker Shirdel was much influenced by the Italian neo-realism that gives Iranian cinema the lineage of genre it deserves, in the relatively short history of realist cinema. However most of the Iranian neo-neo realist film makers that are working today did not work side by side with Rossellini and Pasolini and others as Shirdel did, while studying in Italy in the 60s while studying at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinemotografia in Rome.
In that period of the oil boom and the Shah, most of his films were banned and confiscated, until he was expelled from The Ministry of Culture and Art for whom he worked on his return from Italy, and put on the blacklist. Seven years after it was censored, The Epic of the Gorgani Village Boy (The Night It Rained) received the GRAN PRIX at The Third Tehran International Film Festival (1974) but was banned again and remained so until after the revolution. Other films to follow the same fate were Tehran Is the Capital of Iran (1966 below) Nedamatgah (Women’s
Prison, 1965), Qaleh (Women’s Quarter, 1966) and more. His first and only feature film, The Morning of the Fourth Day (1972), was a remake of Jean-Luc Godard’s A bout de souffle and won several awards at the Sepas National Film Festival. Three years later his second feature film The Camera, based upon Nikolai Gogol’s “General Inspector,” was censored while still shooting and thus remains unfinished. Shirdel went on to make documents about the Iranian Revolution, and his later films follow the unusual themes that focus on the downtrodden, neglected and misrepresented corners of Iranian society. By making his films on these subjects, Shirdel speaks to an entire world of people who recognise in the Iranian characters aspects of their own lives wherever they live. It is a truly global language, as seen through the frame of an Iranian view finder “Solitude Opus” (2002) is about an elderly man who continues to guard a decommissioned solar power plant on an island in the Persian Gulf even once it has gone out of use. He also founded the Kish International Documentary Film Festival, the main independent documentary film festival in Iran and FILMGRAFIC CO. in Tehran. He was honored in 2008 at Italy’s Asiatica Film Mediale and received the Italian Order of Merit in May 2010 for his contributions to art and culture.
Now at 75 years of age, this February he visits USA for the first time to much interest taking press shots outside the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. In March the university of California run a much needed retrospective of his work called Afterimage: Kamran Shirdel where he will be conversation with Hamid Naficy author of A Social History of Iranian Cinema and a professor at Northwestern University, at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, the fine arts museum of Northwestern University and Chicago’s North Shore. Screening will be four of his short films known as “The Four Blacks” which laid the foundation for contemporary Iranian cinema and influenced teams of young film-makers at the time. They are Women’s Prison (Nedamatgah) 1965, 11 mins, B&W, 35mm, Women’s Quarter (Qaleh) 1966–80, 18:23 mins, B&W, 35mm, Tehran Is the Capital of Iran (Tehran Paitakhte Iran Ast) 1966–80, 18:23 mins, B&W, 35mm, and The Night It Rained (An shab ke barun amad) 1967–74, 35 mins, B&W, 35mm.
The Associated Press spoke to Shirdel and Naficy :
Shirdel said the coup still angers him but he’s “not an enemy of America.” Politicians everywhere are capable of misdeeds, he said, voicing his hope that more cultural exchanges between Iran and America could ease tensions.
“We are talking about human beings, not about countries, borders,” he said, adding that “Good, intelligent, sensible artists still exist everywhere“.
Naficy said it’s hard to know whether politics played a role in Shirdel’s visit, but he endorsed more cultural exchanges.
“I think that’s only way you can avoid misunderstandings and wars” Naficy said.
“Teheran in the capital of Iran” (Teheran, payetakht-e Iran ast, 1966) by Kamran Shirde (b.1939) l.