Born on December 8, 1939 in Tehran, Iran
"I was very much influenced by the Neorealism in Italy and also the classical films of Eisenstein or even Griffith and some of these films which they categorize as art films...the first thing that I learned from Neorealism was to just look for the reality of your own...not the others. Try to be just yourself and try to seek out the reality inherent in your culture, in your society, and the closer you go, the deeper you go into that, the more universal it will be."
-on his landmark film "The Cow"
Considered by many to be the "elder statesman" of Iranian Cinema, Dariush Mehrjui has written, directed and produced over a dozen critically acclaimed films dating back to the reign of the Shah. His 1969 breakthrough film "The Cow" is widely credited as having put Iranian Cinema on the map.
After earning a degree in philosophy from UCLA (he switched out of the film department because he believed they relied too heavily on a technical approach towards filmmaking), Mehrjui returned home and began a film career in which he has kept to his self-enforced rule of taking only one year to make each film.
Ironically, Mehrjui has at times been accused of being a "favorite" filmmaker of the Islamic Regime. Such accusations quickly fall apart considering that he has had to deal with censorship throughout his career, both before and after the revolution. The Shah tried to shelve "The Cow" and the clerical regime banned 1992's "Banoo" which had to be smuggled out of the country.
- 2010 - Tehran, Tehran (segment "Tehran, Tehran")
- 2007 - Santoori
- 2006 - Fereshteh and Farsh
- 2004 - Guest and Mother
- 2002 - To Stay Alive
- 2000 - The Cousin is Lost
- 2000 - Mix
- 1998 - The Pear Tree
- 1996 - Leila
- 1994 - Pari
- 1993 - Sara
- 1992 - Banoo
- 1990 - Hamoun
- 1986 - The Tenants
- 1980 - The School We Went To
- 1978 - The Cycle
- 1970 - The Postman
- 1970 - Mr. Simpleton
- 1969 - The Cow
- 1966 - Diamond 33
- Adaptation of literary works, including western writing
- Characters who struggle with philosophical conundrums
- Political allegories
- Surreal Fellini-esqe hallucinations and dreams
- Subtle use or display of modern technology within a shot
- Shots and scenes that feature food service, especially Chinese and Iranian
This interview has been transcribed from the DVD release of "The Cow." The actual questions asked by the interviewer were omitted on the DVD so Firouzan Films has added what was likely asked of the director before each response.
Interviewer: Can you explain the role of the traditional Iranian village in this movie?
Dariush Mehrjui: It was the first time that a film was made in a village and we were trying to really catch the essence of village life at that particular historical moment. It was a story to represent the plight of an individual, of a human being, versus the society which surrounds him and therefore it had this social dimension to it. There was also a metaphysical or, one should say, a philosophical aspect to this love relationship between this man and his cow. And the way he adores her and she is pregnant and a source of nourishment.
Interviewer: This film was released during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah, did you deal with any issues of censorship?
Dariush Mehrjui: It came out or it was produced at a time when the Shah's propaganda was at its peak -- talking about the civilization and how we are now passing the threshold of the old civilization and entering into new civilization. Always talking about modernity and modernization and all these things. And then they said this film which has become now representative of Iran because it made big success in festivals everywhere so they said oh well -- they were kind of ashamed that Iran would be represented by its village.
They confiscated the film for about a year or a year and a half. Even during the shooting of the film or the film script we had problems.
Interviewer: What is the story of "The Cow"?
Dariush Mehrjui: Its the story of a poor village, there is this Mashd Hassan who has a cow and then one day suddenly the cow dies, you don't know why, and the villagers get together. They hide the issue from Mashd Hassan when he comes back because he's out of the village. And when he comes back they don't tell him but he gradually finds out about this. They first started lying and saying that the cow has run away or whatnot, but then finally he finds out that the cow is dead but he can not come to believe it or to accept it and gradually he goes into a seclusion, to isolation, and he undergoes a kind of metamorphoses. He identifies himself with his cow and becomes like his cow and says that "I'm the cow."
Interviewer: What were some of your influences for making this film?
Dariush Mehrjui: I was very much influenced by the Neorealism in Italy and also the classical films of Eisenstein or even Griffith and some of these films which they categorize as "art films." I felt the absence of such kind of films in Iran and this was one of my great dreams to be able to make a film about this situation.
The first thing that I learned from Neorealism was to just look for the reality of your own. Not the others'. Try to be just yourself and try to seek out the reality inherent in your culture, in your society. The closer you go, the deeper you go into that, the more universal it will be.
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