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SAINT CLARA

Israel, 1995 (MIFF 1996, Contemporary World Cinema )

Director: Ori Sivan, Ari Folman

Blurring the line between documentary and fiction, Mohsen Makhmalbaf's Salaam Cinema is the Iran director/activist's typically offbeat tribute to a century of cinema. Such is the popularity of the cinema in Iran that a modest press ad for a film audition can result in a street riot! Looking for 100 actors for his new film, the director is overwhelmed when 5000 people turn up. In recording the film making process that follows Makhmalbaf illuminates the nature of these cattle calls', the director as dictator, and the importance of cinema in daily life.

People of all backgrounds appear and subsequent screen tests disclose a legion of amateur hopefuls who sing, dance or show off altogether stranger talents They confide their ambitions, expose their conceits or simply claim their similarity to Paul Newman and Marilyn Monroe.

Most importantly the auditions also speak of the realities of life in Iran by providing a forum for intellectuals, students and women-sections of the Iranian populace seldom allowed voice-to talk about their lives. Makhmalbaf, a 'celebrity' in Iranian circles. relentlessly, cruelly interrogates his applicants. pitting them against each other, reducing them to tears. Only as the process unfolds are the director's real motives exposed. As such, this is perhaps the most telling, the most revealing of the flood of films responding to cinema's centenary. Unmissable. (tb)

"Makhmalbaf fashions a delightful, vente-like •irthday card out of the auditions for a film we

f

ever see. Witty and slyly resonant, the simple remise turns into a reflexive treat" Godfrey Cheshire. Variety

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