Singapore International Film Festival

Danger all around for director

Films made by Mohsen Makhmalbaf include Gabbeh, The President (above) and A Moment Of Innocence.
Films made by Mohsen Makhmalbaf include Gabbeh, The President (above) and A Moment Of Innocence.PHOTO: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Films made by Mohsen Makhmalbaf include Gabbeh (above), The President and A Moment Of Innocence.
Films made by Mohsen Makhmalbaf include Gabbeh (above), The President and A Moment Of Innocence.PHOTO: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Films made by Mohsen Makhmalbaf include Gabbeh, The President and A Moment Of Innocence (above).
Films made by Mohsen Makhmalbaf include Gabbeh, The President and A Moment Of Innocence (above).PHOTO: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Films made by Mohsen Makhmalbaf (above) include Gabbeh, The President and A Moment Of Innocence.
Films made by Mohsen Makhmalbaf (above) include Gabbeh, The President and A Moment Of Innocence.PHOTO: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Exiled film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf will have a tribute section in this year's Singapore International Film Festival

Exiled film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf's life story is bound fast to the politics of his former homeland, Iran. It is a past he can never seem to escape, even now, more than a decade after fleeing.

"After we left, we lived as refugees in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Paris," says the 58-year-old on the telephone from London, where he now lives with his family.

He has had to move because of violence, either in general or directed against him because of his films.

Being on the move and being the target of extremists has not dampened his output, he says.

"I've made films in 10 countries, in Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Georgia, Italy and India," he says.

He has a tribute section in this year's Singapore International Film Festival.

Six of his works, selected from a body of more than 20 features, will be screened. They showcase a range of styles, from biting satire about dictatorship in The President (2014) to the sensuous fairy tale that is Gabbeh (1996).

The festival describes him as "a singular figure" in Iranian cinema, a man whose work has become a "cultural weapon" against oppression.

"As an advocate for the right to expression, he perseveres despite countless setbacks and threats... always coming back to the universality of humanity," read the festival tribute.

His work has been featured in the Singapore International Film Festival since 1997, when Gabbeh was screened. He will be here to receive an award at the Silver Screen Awards event on Saturday.

Makhmalbaf thinks that he and his family are targeted by overseas followers of hardliners in the Iranian government because of his support of dissident artists.

He tells of how someone exploded a hand grenade at one of his shooting locations in Afghanistan and his escape from death by poisoning in Kabul. In Paris, the police received a tip-off about an attempt on his life and put bodyguards around his house.

That is when he decided to leave Paris for London two years ago.

Dissident film-makers such as Jafar Panahi (Taxi Tehran, 2015, and This Is Not A Film, 2011) continue to live and work in Iran, as do other other artists. They live under the gun and have to continuously negotiate the limits of their freedom with the authorities, he says.

Panahi continues to make films, but under a travel ban.

Recently, Makhmalbaf says that a poet and musician have received hefty jail terms for their work.

Life as an itinerant artist has taught him to be adaptable. "I can work with a crew of 50 or a crew of two. One of my latest films, The Gardener (2012), was made for YouTube. You can search for it," he says.

•For details and bookings for films in the Tribute To Mohsen Makhmalbaf section of the Singapore International Film Festival, go to sgiff.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'Danger all around for director'. Print Edition | Subscribe