Iran supports a plethora of film festivals, culminating in the Fajr International Film Festival, which is now in its 25th year and described by Farabi managing director Alireza Rezadad as "the most important cultural event in Iran". Local audiences pack screenings of international and local films included in a range of competitions and panoramas, while industry visitors attend screenings of selected new Iranian titles. Other films are shown in the market and at gatherings in film-makers' homes.

The festival market, now celebrating its tenth year, attracts a coterie of international buyers including representatives from Celluloid Dreams, MK2, Wild Bunch, Fortissimo and Canada's Delphis Films. Most of the main festivals are represented, including Cannes, Berlin and Venice, plus buyers and exhibitors from the United Arab Emirates, US, India, Japan and other Asian countries. One third of the 75 stands are taken by Iranian exhibitors and buyers.

Broad remit

"The market was initially established as a showcase for internationally acclaimed Iranian films but it has grown year on year, and is now far broader," says Amir Esfandiari, market director and Farabi's head of international affairs.

At time of writing, the selection committee was still whittling down 105 submitted films to 25 included in the national competition, but the line-up of Fajr premieres is likely to include Dariush Mehrjui's hotly tipped Ali Santoori, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad's Mainline and Kiomars Poorahmad's Night Bus, plus new films by Masoud Kimiaei, Maziar Miri and Fereydoun Jeyrani. A 15-piece portmanteau film, The Persian Carpet, is a who's who of Iranian cinema, featuring contributions from Abbas Kiarostami, Bahram Beizaii, Bahman Farmanara, Majid Majidi and Jafar Panahi.

More offbeat premieres include a collection of seven shorts by blind women filmmaker-cinematographers, produced by Silkroad Production and RoyAbeen Media.