Last week I had the opportunity to talk with Makhmalbaf and his wife (see my previous posting), who were visiting St Andrews. He was, and still is, active in his support for the Green Movement in Iran. Although very much disappointed about what was going on in his home country, and the reactions from the West, whose only concern is the nuclear issue, he still had hope for the future. But what was needed he felt was a cultural shift, a move away from the religious mindset of the present. In a sense you might say that what he wanted was for the country to do what he himself has done.
When I said that it seemed almost impossible that there could be so much filmmaking talent in one family, he said that it wasn't a question of talent. Talent is not important, what is important is passion and dedication, that you're serious about what you do. I'm not sure I agree with that, in the sense that if you don't know how to make a film, it doesn't really matter how dedicated you are, the audience will probably not understand, if they even bother to try.
Makhmalbaf has a poetic, perhaps naïve, belief in the importance of the purity of the film. He contrasted the "vulgar" Bollywood musicals with the early films of Satyajit Ray, films which, he said, captured the soul of India. I don't even know what that is, but arguably the Bollywood films of today will tell you more about India than Ray's films, even if I, like Makhmalbaf, much prefer Ray's work. (Ray is after all one of the greatest artists in cinema history.)
Now the Makhmalbafs live in Paris, and he travels around the world to fight for Iran's future. He was name dropping the likes of Bernard Kouchner and Barack Obama, and I think that he both enjoys it and finds it exasperating to have become a politician. Even though he was always political.
Among Makhmalbaf's most interesting films are Salaam Cinema (1995), A Moment of Innocence (Nun va goldoon 1996) and Kandahar (Safar e Gandehar 2001), so check them out if you haven't already done so.