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International Roshd Film Festival

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The International Roshd Film Festival, the oldest film festival in Iran, focuses on educational films for children. This film festival took place during the last week of October and featured documentary, short, animation and feature films from 40 countries. Within these sections, winners were from France, Spain, Mexico and Iran.

There were 15 films in the feature film category. The film awarded the Golden Statue is called Flame in the Wind, directed by Farhad Meheranfar. It is a very interesting story about female students in northern Iran and how they strike a virtual friendship with a girl from southern Iran, which is so different from their culture and climate. Northern Iran is very green with beautiful waterfalls and mountains and the tribe living there try to conserve the natural environment. The forest officer was killed by the contractors who come to steal the wood from the forest. After this incident the wife of the officer is furiously protective about the forest and does not want her only daughter to go to another town for higher studies. When the girl Shooka goes with other village girls to a town, a whole new world opens up and she learns about the computers, video cameras, etc. She befriends a dumb girl from southern Iran in cyber space and learns about their culture and climatic conditions, which are vastly different from theirs. The dumb girl, who is humiliated for her physical inadequacies among her fellow students, grows self-confidence with the compassion and love of Shooka. After Shooka's return to the village, the director metaphorically states through the dwarf of the village that he did not grow up, as he did not study. The epilogue of the film, a tad bit long states how the southern girl helps Shooka's mother with their knowledge of herbal medicines.

The Special Jury Prize was given to Mister Headmaster by Hassan Karimi, which is about a very strict school teacher who believes that students' behaviour should be controlled even outside of the school premises. When he plans a journey to a holy place, he asks the students to write letters with their wish lists, but the journey gets cancelled for his personal reasons and he had to return the letters to the students. He finds one anonymous letter which was a complaint about himself, and he becomes obsessed with finding the writer of the letter. Suddenly, an incident takes place where one student is hurt trying to protect the teacher, changing his whole perspective towards his values and personal relationships. The scene with his student in the hospital was a very poignant scene. The teacher returns home and his wife tells him that he has been very strict with everybody and he realizes that one can win people's love only with compassion, and not with rules and regulations.

The Silver Statue went to Aavaan, directed by Arash Hosseini and written by an accomplished writer Mojtaba Rai. It is a technically very polished film with a perfect cast. It reflects on social issues in the backdrop of a story of friendship between two young boys from socially opposite backgrounds. One is a Kurd native Aavaan living near the mountains with his dumb father and the other, an engineer's son. One day the engineer's son stumbles upon Aavaan in the village and his elder brother tries to persuade Aavaan's father with material gifts to take Aavaan with him to the city for few days. By the time Aavaan comes to the city, the engineer's son has already left to the war front where even teenagers fought for the country against the Iraqi invasion. After the death of the engineer's son in the war, Aavaan, who hated guns and violence earlier, goes to the war front to defend his country men and dies a martyr. The engineer, a tough man who did not shed a tear for his own son, breaks down.

What was amazing in the festival was the endeavour by the Iran government to educate the children through the cinematic language. Twenty-three hundred years ago, Panchtantra was written in India to educate children about life and its morals through Buddhist tales, which was translated by Persian author Borzuye in the sixth century A.D. Now that we have cinema as a new medium, we can utilize this to educate children on science, technology and most importantly, ethics of life. The optic nerve being the shortest to the brain, what we see gets imprinted in our minds faster than what we hear. I hope the film makers around the world are listening to my suggestion.

Bijaya Jena, Director-Jury Member
www.bijayajena.com