Venice Film Festival Hosts Filmmakers Shirin Neshat, Khatami

Four Iranian directors are presenting their movies at this year’s Venice Film Festival (which ends Sept. 9), all of them outside of the official competition. They include Shirin Neshat, who won the festival’s Silver Lion in 2009 for “Women Without Men.”

Neshat’s latest film, “Looking For Umm Kulthum,” focuses on the life of the Egyptian woman who became the Arab world’s greatest vocalist. It has been six years in the making.

It’s the “story of an Iranian woman filmmaker, living in exile, who dares to make a film about an iconic Arab singer without being Arabic herself,” Neshat told Variety in a recent interview.

She described Umm Kulthum as a Muslim woman artist “who was able to transcend all sexual, religious, political and national barriers and expectations, and became the single most significant Middle Eastern artist of the 20th century.”

The other directors present in Venice this year include Alireza Khatami. His “Los Versos del Olvido” (a French, German, Dutch and Chilean coproduction) tells the story of a ground keeper at a cemetery in Chile during the rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet who is trying to identify the bodies of those who have been tortured and killed by the regime. Khatami previously released a number of short films.

Ali Asgari’s well-reviewed “Disappearance” (an Iranian-Qatari co-production) stars Nazanin Ahmadi, Pedram Ansari and Sadaf Asgari.

Vahid Jalilvand’s “No Date No Signature” is about a medical examiner struggling with his conscience. It stars Navid Mohammadzadeh and Zakieh Behbahani.

Meanwhile, the Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi began shooting his new film in Spain last week. “Everyone Knows” stars Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz (who are a couple in real life). The Almodovar brothers (Agustin and Pedro) are financing the film to the tune of around $16 million.

Venice is the world’s oldest film festival. The 2017 competition jury is led by the actress Annette Bening.

Umm Kulthum singing Enta Omri (You Are My Life), with English subtitles

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