Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi Sabet, Tehran Times, October 14 2019:… Mahdavian’s second movie, “The Midday Event” on the terrorist activities of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) in Iran in the 1980s, demonstrated his passion for factual political stories taken from modern Iranian history. In this film, the new government, after toppling the Shah in 1979, assembles a security group to fight against MKO’s terrorist attacks in 1982. His third film, “Lottery” about trafficking Iranian women to the United Arab Emirates was viewed as regressive by critics. Trace of Blood a Film About MEK History
Trace of Blood a Film About MEK History
Filmmaker emerges to bring dramas from Iran political history to life
“I was born during the war, which had lasted for so long that I thought that it would be forever and would never end. When I heard people talking about the frontline I imagined it was a geographical location like a sea or a forest near the borderlines of each country where the war took place. We were in our childhood, experiencing a certain way of life. We chanted slogans in the schools and talked about certain issues and heard about subjects from the media that deeply influenced our hearts and minds. Today, the experiences of those years caused me to be interested in returning to those years with new feelings and perceptions, which come from awareness, and I want to recollect the memories of those years again.”
Mohammad-Hossein Mahdavian made the remarks during the Fajr Film Festival in Tehran in February after the premiere of his latest political thriller, “Trace of Blood”, which is currently on screen at Iranian theaters.
Perhaps nobody imagined that a filmmaker of political thrillers was being born in the new wave of Iranian cinema in 2016 when Mahdavian made his debut feature “Standing in the Dust” at 34.
The film recounted the life story of Ahmad Motevasselian, an IRGC commander who was kidnapped by the Zionist regime in 1982 in Lebanon.
The choice of subject matter was viewed by critics as an easy and clever way for the newcomer to obtain approval for the film from Iranian cultural officials.
At the time, the film was produced at the Owj Arts and Media Organization, a Tehran-based institution that produces revolutionary works in art and cinema. Nowadays, the projects that the organization supports no longer face burdensome bureaucratic hurdles imposed by the state.
“‘Standing in the Dust’ was the most customized movie I have ever made, and was my most popular film and also received critics acclaim,” Mahdavian told the Persian daily Sharq after the premiere of “Trace of Blood”.
“‘Lottery’ was my most independently produced film, but it failed to satisfy the critics,” he added.
A year later, Mahdavian’s second movie, “The Midday Event” on the terrorist activities of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) in Iran in the 1980s, demonstrated his passion for factual political stories taken from modern Iranian history.
In this film, the new government, after toppling the Shah in 1979, assembles a security group to fight against MKO’s terrorist attacks in 1982.
A year later, Mahdavian’s second movie, “The Midday Event” on the terrorist activities of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) in Iran in the 1980s, demonstrated his passion for factual political stories taken from modern Iranian history. In this film, the new government, after toppling the Shah in 1979, assembles a security group to fight against MKO’s terrorist attacks in 1982.
His third film, “Lottery” about trafficking Iranian women to the United Arab Emirates was viewed as regressive by critics.
“I have the courage to make a film and accept the negative reviews. But what urges me to continue on this path is the people for whom I make the films,” he noted.
“ Trace of Blood ”, also known as “ Blood Trap ”, is a sequel to “The Midday Event”. In this film, Iranian security forces come together in 1988 to trace the MKO’s undercover agents, which had penetrated the security forces in 1982. They also want to foil Operation Eternal Light, which the MKO carried out against Iran with the full support of the Iraqi dictator, Saddam.
The stories of “The Midday Event” and “Trace of Blood” were set in the 1980s when Mahdavian and Ebrahim Amini, with whom he co-wrote the screenplays for the films, were only children.
However, in an interview with Mahdavian, veteran critic Hushang Golmakani, who works for the Persian monthly Film, called the details of the sets and dialogues of “Trace of Blood” perfect.
“The film has the potential to be biased, but it has maintained its balance. The film has very good dialogues and perfect ending,” Golmakani noted.
It appears that a perfect filmmaker who is genuinely skilled in transforming real political narratives into films has emerged. However, he wants to try his hand at other genres.
“There is no time to lose; life is too short and I haven’t made a lot of films. Certainly, I will try other genres—I don’t know when—but I want to try something different,” he said.
“If I find a different story appropriate enough to be turned into a film, of course I will make it. Once, I even wanted to make a film for children, because whenever we intend to take our children to the cinema, we can’t find films entertaining enough for children,” he added.
The social theme of the story in “Lottery” from his short but brilliant career reflected a shift. Centering on topics such as sex trafficking rings in Iran is a bit much for this cinema. His camera should be focused on major stories such as the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, which has been distorted by numerous biased movies from Iranian and foreign filmmakers, including Ben Affleck’s 2012 movie “Argo”.
Mahdavian seems to go his own way in filmmaking. He is clever enough to avoid joining specific currents, which tend to categorize everything by the rules of politics. His avoidance of these trends should help prevent him from being tagged as a governmental filmmaker.
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True stories of terror stun critics at Iranian film festival
Rohollah Faghihi, Al Monitor, February 22 2019:… The movie is about the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq organization, often referred to as MEK, and their infiltration of the Iranian security apparatus in the 1980s. US national security adviser John Bolton has promoted MEK, currently based in Albania, as an alternative to the Islamic Republic. The group, which was on the United States’ list of terrorist organizations between 1997 and 2012
True stories of terror stun critics at Iranian film festival
In a cruel twist, on Feb. 13 — a mere 48 hours after the award ceremony — 27 people were killed in a terror attack, believed to be staged by an offshoot of Jundallah, a Sunni Baluch extremist group and the subject of the festival’s top winner, “When the Moon Was Full.” Jaish al-Adl, founded in 2012 by members of Jundallah, claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb that targeted a bus carrying members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“When the Moon Was Full” explores the life of Abdulhamid Rigi, the younger brother of Abdulmalek Rigi, the executed leader of Jundallah. The movie, directed by Narges Abyar, swept the awards for best director, best actor (Hootan Shakibaplaying the role of Abdulhamid), best actress (Elnaz Shakerdust for the portrayal of his wife Faezeh) and best supporting actress (Fereshteh Sadr-Orafai as the mother of the Rigi brothers). The film also took the award for best film, beating its prominent rivals “6.5 for a Meter” by Saeed Roustayi and “Warden” by Nima Javidi.
Critics at the Fajr Film Festival described “When the Moon was Full” as a phenomenal film that provides a rare insight into an infamous terrorist group. The movie is based on the true story about the marriage of Abdulhamid Rigi and Faezeh Mansuri. Abdulhamid talks Faezeh into leaving Tehran for Pakistan along with her brother Shahab, but the family finds themselves captives of Jundallah. Shahab, who the group says is an Iranian agent, is beheaded. In the movie, Abdulmalek calls the father of Faezeh and Shahab to tell him to “watch the video of your son’s beheading on Al-Arabiya tomorrow night.” Though Faezeh has a chance to escape, she chooses to remain in Pakistan so as not to leave her three children. Finally, Abdulhamid kills her in her sleep on the orders of his elder brother.
Though the Rigi brothers were based in Pakistan, Jundallah carried out ambushes and suicide attacks in southeastern Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Abdulmalek was arrested by Iranian intelligence in 2010 to jubilation in the province, with people handing out sweets on the streets.
At the time, Iranian officials accused the United States and some Arab countries of supporting and funding Rigi. The unnamed officers who arrested him were quotedin the Iranian media as saying that the militant leader had been on his way to a meeting with Richard Holbrooke, then US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, at the Manas air base near Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek. While Abdulmalek was en route to Bishkek from Dubai, his plane was forced to land in Iran, leading to his arrest and eventual execution the same year.
In a Feb. 7 interview with Khabar Online, sociologist Emad Afrough stated that “When the Moon Was Full” accurately depicts the extremist Islam of the group as well as the culture of the Baluch people, a group of tribes with about five million people in the province of Baluchistan in Pakistan, in Iran and Afghanistan.
Praising Abyar for taking up such a sensitive issue, especially as a female director, producer Mahmoud Razavi posted on Instagram Feb. 13, “I remember that few years ago, I had the intention of producing a TV series about Abdulmalek Rigi. I had prepared a proposal and I gave it to a veteran and famous director of Iranian cinema. … When he came to the meeting, he said, ‘Dear Mahmoud, I love my life, they will kill me.’”
Another of the festival’s controversial films was “Midday Adventures: Trace of Blood,” directed by Mohammad Hossein Mahdavian. It was nominated in 11 categories and won best special effects, best costume design and best sound mixing.
The film is the second in a trilogy by Mahdavian, following the “Midday Adventures” or “The Story of Noon,” released in 2017. The movie is about the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq organization, often referred to as MEK, and their infiltration of the Iranian security apparatus in the 1980s. US national security adviser John Bolton has promoted MEK, currently based in Albania, as an alternative to the Islamic Republic. The group, which was on the United States’ list of terrorist organizations between 1997 and 2012, is deemed responsible for the deaths of 17,000 Iranians. In the 1980s, the group was in Iraq helping Saddam Hussein during his eight-year-war against Iran.
“Midday Adventures: Trace of Blood” narrates the 1988 Mersad Operation, the last major military operation of the war that ended in a decisive victory for Iran. While the film mostly received positive reactions, some media outlets criticized the film for being “incomplete” in ignoring the role of the late Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the victory against MEK. Producer Mahmoud Razavi is close to former conservative presidential candidate Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf. Mahdavian directed President Hassan Rouhani’s campaign documentary in the 2017 presidential election.
Amir Homayoun Ghanizadeh, the young director of “Maskhare Baz,” won the best film award in the festival’s “New Vision” section but refused to receive it. He instead sent an Afghani immigrant worker to speak out about the difficulty his countrymen are facing in Iran. But whatever social message Ghanizadeh wanted to send was lost, as he was ridiculed on the social media for copying Marlon Brando in the 1973 Oscars. Brando, who won for best actor in “The Godfather,” had sent a native American activist to decline his award at the ceremony.