Author John Hill is a special guest of the 37th Fajr International Film Festival. His research and writing focus on a variety of areas including film and television history, national and regional cinemas, film industry, film policy and politics of film.
Professor Hill has been involved in a range of professional activities including: Founding member of the Board of Directors; Northern Ireland Film Council; Member of the Board of Governors, British Film Institute; Member of the first Communications, Cultural and Media Studies panel for the HEFCE Research Assessment Exercise (RAE); Chair, Working Group on the Film Industry in Europe, European Institute for the Media; Founding chair of the Foyle Film Festival; Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of British Cinema and Television and of the Editorial Advisory Boards of Cineaste, Television and New Media and Scope. In terms of teaching, Hill has been responsible for a range of courses on film and television history, film analysis and criticism, British and European cinema, the film industry and Hollywood.
During a brief conversation, the prominent researcher shared his thoughts with us.
It’s an honor to have you among us. Please tell us more about yourself.
It’s very nice to be here. It’s my first time in Iran. I’m currently professor at the department of Media Arts of Royal Holloway University of London. University of London is a leading university in UK and Royal Holloway is one of a number of colleges. I’m of a mixed background. My family is Irish, I was brought up in Scotland but I’m working in London. I did my PhD in Scotland and worked for a long time in Ireland. My main research interest has been British and Irish cinema and also British television.
I co-authored the first serious academic book on history of cinema in Ireland and subsequently wrote a book about the cinema in Northern Ireland which is the part of the Ireland that remains within the UK and that’s still the only book on a rather special subject. I’ve also written about realist cinema in Britain and the new wave films of the 50s and 60s, and also about Ken Loach, the British director who makes films about the working class and uses a documentary influence style. I’ve also interest in the economics of filmmaking and film policy, and although I’m an academic, I’ve done a lot of practical things in relationship to film policy. I was the chair of Northern Island film council which supported filmmaking in that part of the world. I was a governor of the British Film Institute and currently sit on a committee concerned with archiving. So my work is partly academic but is also partly orientated, trying to encourage support for filmmaking, support for films being seen more widely around the country, and also the preservation of our film and television history, because the film industry is a very now industry – we go and see the film and then we forget about it the next week and then, twenty years later we can’t see it because it has been preserved or internet condition makes it impossible, as it impossible to show. This is especially true of the television.
Your Special field is British cinema and European cinema. Are you also familiar with Iranian cinema?
Well, I’ve just been in a panel and was talking about this and of course I am sufficiently old (Laughs) to be aware of Iranian cinema. In Britain and Europe and the West more generally…you know, when I was a film student, in a way we were largely aware of European cinema but of course from the 1990s we became aware or Iranian films, through the film festivals. Some Iranian films began to appear on television, some were shown on DVD, and of course in universities. Iranian cinema is now taught in universities. It’s taught from various angles in terms of the significance of particular directors, arguments about national cinema, arguments about realism, arguments about form and style in cinema, arguments about politics in cinema.
I suppose my interest in Iranian cinema were particularly related to its linking to the realist tradition of filmmaking. A lot of the greatest Iranian filmmakers like Kiarostami are seen as part of a kind of realist tradition. And for me, I was interested because the Iranian cinema had similarities with the cinema I know, the use of location shooting, non-professional actors, the use of the long take, use of natural lighting, and avoidance of overt sort of organization of a frame. I think this is one of the more distinctive features of Iranian cinema- this has also been an interest in what I would call the politics of representation. How can cinema show us reality, how can cinema ever show us reality in a simple way. Filmmakers like Kiarostami made films that also make us aware of the filmmaking process.
Any words about the Fetsival?
I’ve been very well looked after by the festival. What I’ve already met, some very interesting people, filmmakers, critics, students. It’s very enjoyable for me to be here. I don’t think coming here with my knowledge; I think I’m coming here to learn something as well, because it’s a new experience for me.
Presided over by award-winning writer and director Seyyed Reza Mirkarimi, the 37th Fajr International Film Festival is underway in Tehran until April 26. For further information, please visit our website at www.fajriff.com.