Like Jafar Panahi, Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof is awaiting "execution of the verdict," a sentence of one year in jail delivered in December 2010. Unlike Panahi, whose sentence is six years, Rasoulof is free to travel in the meantime, a luxury — or, as many would see it, a right — denied Panahi for, foreseeably, 20 years. Rasoulof is currently a jury member at the Fribourg International Film Festival, running through Saturday, which has given Regula Fuchs an opportunity to interview him for the Swiss Tages-Anzeiger (thanks to Film-Zeit for the tip).
Fuchs first asks about the potential impact of the Oscar for Asghar Farhadi's A Separation on the Iranian film scene. Rasoulof: "The authorities see this Oscar as a confirmation of their policies toward filmmakers: By exercising their influence on Iranian cinema, they've made this foreign award possible."
On how one goes about making a film in Iran these days: "There are two permits you need to get from the Ministry of Culture. The first grants permission to shoot. For that one, you need to get a screenplay approved. You need a second permit to show a film publicly. And for that one, you need to present the completed film. For independent filmmakers, it's really only the first permit that counts. Because, while you're shooting, you can make changes to the original screenplay and shoot the film you actually want to make. But of course, then, you can forget the second permit."
Rasoulof has made five films and none of them has ever been screened publicly in Iran. He'd love to reach an audience in his own country, but "the reality is: If I write seriously about any topic in Iran, that won't be possible. I don't want to go commercial just to please the authorities." Good Bye, which has just played in New Directors/New Films in New York and screens tomorrow in Fribourg, was made with the support of the House of Cinema in Tehran, which of course, was recently shut down by the authorities. He sought, and was granted, approval for the screenplay — and then, with the support of well-known actors who worked for next to nothing, shot a completely different film. "I didn't even bother to ask for the second permit."
And why were he and Panahi arrested in the first place? "Because we were making a film. And what was it about? It was about what you hear when you're sitting in a taxi and chatting with the driver — just everyday chitchat. That's all."
New York. "After a half century of being ahead of the game, is Ken Jacobs finally a man of his time?" asks Eric Hynes in Time Out New York. "Anticipating remix and gaming culture, the rise of the channel changers and the return of 3D, Jacobs's legendary experiments of the 50s, 60s and 80s now seem bracingly of the moment. And thanks to a switch to digital editing in the late 1990s, the 78-year-old Brooklyn native has lately produced some of the most playful, politically impassioned and downright mind-blowing acts of cinema you'll ever see. This weekend, the Museum of the Moving Image presents Ken Jacobs: Recent Works, a can't-miss survey of his latest endeavors." Eric talks with Jacobs about Return to the Scene of the Crime (2008), Seeking the Monkey King (2011), Nervous Magic Lantern Performance: Time Squared, Razzle Dazzle: The Lost World (2006) and Star Spangled to Death (2004).
Book. The New Yorker's Richard Brody posts a few first thoughts on Claude Lanzmann's new collection of "journalistic and occasional writings, La Tombe du Divin Plongeur (The Tomb of the Divine Diver), which was published in France this month. It's an extraordinary book that not only sheds additional light on Lanzmann's activities before he made films but also vividly evokes the powerfully crystallizing world view that culminated in Shoah. In several parts, it even goes beyond The Patagonian Hare in illuminating some of the movie's key ideas."
In the works. Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis are lined up for Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner's feature directorial debut, You Are Here, and indieWIRE has the press release.
Julianne Moore's joined Scarlett Johansson in Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut, reports Edward Davis at the Playlist.
Even as he carries on working on Frank or Francis, his musical about a feud between a film blogger and a director, Charlie Kaufman's scored a deal for his first novel, reports Deadline's Mike Fleming.
Obits. "Adrienne Rich, a poet of towering reputation and towering rage, whose work — distinguished by an unswerving progressive vision and a dazzling, empathic ferocity — brought the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse and kept it there for nearly a half-century, died on Tuesday at her home in Santa Cruz, Calif. She was 82." Margalit Fox in the New York Times.
Bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs, who died on Wednesday in Nashville at the age of 88, "helped popularize the banjo far beyond its traditional home in Southern regional music," writes Randy Lewis in the Los Angeles Times. Teaming up with guitarist Lester Flatt, he scored a hit with "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," which "gained a new following from its prominent use in director Arthur Penn's hit 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde. Flatt & Scruggs were hired at the behest of star and producer Warren Beatty, who vowed, 'I am going to get Earl a hit record from this movie.' He succeeded, and it also earned the duo their first Grammy Award. Scruggs eventually won three more for various collaborations. A generation later, filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen put a bluegrass band at the center of their 2000 Depression-themed movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? and called the group the Soggy Bottom Boys, inspired in no small part by the name of Flatt & Scruggs' band, the Foggy Mountain Boys."