Mohsen Makhmalbaf – Salaam Cinema (1995)
Makhmalbaf puts an advertisement in the papers calling for an open casting for his next movie. However when hundreds of people show up, he decides to make a movie about the casting and the screen tests of the would-be actors.
A seminal film for Makhmalbaf (it laid the foundations for Moment of Innocence) and a key film for Iran’s new cinema. In 1994, to celebrate the medium’s upcoming centenary, Makhmalbaf placed an ad for aspiring movie actors in a newspaper. Five thousand people of all ages showed up (this opens with scenes of the riot) and the resulting film is a highly selective compilation of episodes from the screen tests. It packs a lot into 70 minutes. It’s a spot-sample of Iranian society in 1994, noting the rise of assertive young women. There’s a wry perspective on Khomeini’s revolution (note the man who trades on his prison friendship with Makhmalbaf to ask favours for his sons). There are reflections on cinephilia, from the idiots who think they look like Hollywood stars or want to show off their macho gunplay to the would-be actor who pretends to be blind and claims to be able to ‘feel’ the films he sits through. And there’s Makhmalbaf deconstructing the film-making process: acting the directorial bully, then watching others (women!) emulate his bullying.