Film and Music Entertainment (F&ME) pact with London-based Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf to make The President, the first in a slate of projects written and directed by the director in exile

// 20th of August, 2013

The film will be his first English-language feature and will shoot in Georgia in early 2014.

Festival President Mike Downey and Iranian Film making Legend Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Festival President Mike Downey and Iranian Film making Legend Mohsen Makhmalbaf

For immediate release
London August 15 2014

Long-time London resident Mohsen Makhmalbaf is joining forces with Mike Downey and Sam Taylor’s UK-based Film and Music Entertainment (F&ME) group to produce his first fiction feature in four years.  Entitled The President, the film will shoot in Georgia in early 2014 and will be the Iranian director’s first English language feature film.

Set in a fictional Caucasus country the film tells the story of a dictator whose regime is brought down by a popular coup d’etat.  In the aftermath of the violence the (ex) President flees with his five year old grandson across his former country disguised as street musicians.  As they make their way towards the coast in the hope of escaping by boat, they meet the people of the country he had previously subjugated. When the ordinary people and the ex-prisoners who hate the overthrown dictator find out that the man in front of them is the President, their reaction is neither typical or predictable.

"After the Arab Spring, a number of dictators fell: Ben Ali, Mubarak, Gadhaffi, " says writer/director Makhmalbaf, "but statistics show that there are over 40 dictators of this kind still in power.  In the course of the Arab Spring and in the search for democracy, we have witnessed a lot of violence wither by the attack of foreign countries (as in the case of Libya where tens of thousands of people were killed) or as the result of internal conflicts where one hundred thousand people have been killed and millions injured and become refugees.  As the result of all this violence, the road to democracy appears more and more difficult for these countries."

The President will shoot in Georgia as a UK-Georgia-Germany co-production.  F&ME are working again in Georgia with Vladimer Katcharava’s  20 Steps, the production outfit they made the first ever UK-Georgia co-production, Epic written by Pawel Pawlikowski and directed by Ben Hopkins, earlier in 2013. The German partner is Rudolph Herzog’s Bruemmer and Herzog Filmproduktion whose Dead Funny and The Agent were major successes in Germany.

The message of Makhmalbaf’s film is one of peace and reconciliation, he continues: "after the collapse of a regime, whether it be a king or a president or a despot, the violence used against them by the people of these countries (as in Libya) will result in new violence later on.  The new ruling party, having witnessed this, will not give up the power as they are frightened to incur the same violent end. They will resort to every possible way to hang on to power , even by killing the people of their own country if necessary.

Makhmalbaf, who has taken a back seat from feature film making for the last four years as he has been travelling the world as the spokesman for the Iranian Green movement, meeting along the way a multitude of heads and bringing their message of peace and reconciliation.  He recently also incurred the further wrath of the Iranian regime by visiting Israel as an ‘ambassador for peace’ with a message of peace from Iranian artists and writers.  The result of that visit was further vilification and also the removal of his family’s exhibit at the national film museum in Tehran of their 150 international film awards garnered over the years.

"With Mohsen’s latest screenplay," says producer Mike Downey, "The President is an attempt in film terms to propose a solution to avoid violence in future revolutions which are truly seeking freedom and democracy.  The story is challenging, exciting and compelling and with a final twist that will leave the audience asking themselves just where they stand.  There is a huge space for film makers of conscience like Mohsen, and given F&ME’s aims and current slate, our partnership is a very natural fit."

57 year-old Makhmalbaf, who holds a French passport currently lives in exile in London. He left Iran after the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.  Since this time he has been an outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic. In 2009 he became active in support of the opposition Green movement and travelled the world in support of its cause meeting world leaders.

Makhmalbaf, has directed over 20 films including the award-winning 2001 film Kandahar, which is in the Time magazine's list of the 100 greatest films. He only last week screened his latest work, The Gardener, at the Motovun International Film Festival in Croatia where he received the Motovun Maverick lifetime achievement award. It is a docudrama about a son and a father talking about religion, especially the Baha'i faith, which Makhmalbaf made in collaboration with his son Maysam.  He dedicated what was to be the first film award of the rest of his career to the prisoners in Iran imprisoned because of the Baha’i faith.

F&ME is currently in production on their Georgian shot film EPIC by Ben Hopkins from a screenplay by Pawel Pawlikowski; a documentary film about Rio de Janeiro by Julien Temple, and the first ever UK-Albania co-pro, Amsterdam Express directed by Fatmir Koci.

For further information please contact:

Tanja Lunardelli
53 Great Portland Street
W1W 7LG London
0207 255 1834