Celluloid Underground

Cannes Docs

Celluloid Underground

Original title: Celluloid Underground

Directed by: Ehsan KHOSHBAKHT

Produced by: Mary BELL, Adam DAWTREY (Bofa Productions, UK)

Country of production: United Kingdom

Runtime: 85'

Expected release: September, 2023

Production stage: Post-production

Budget: €195.697 (75% in place)

1st feature: No

Looking for: Sales agents, Distributors, Festivals


After the Iranian Revolution, a movie collector in Tehran hid thousands of films to prevent their destruction by the new Islamic regime. Despite arrest and torture, he refused to give up his secret. His story of resistance is told by the boy who became his partner in crime, recollected years later from exile in London. A moving and inspiring autobiography about the subversive power of celluloid dreams.

Director’s profile:

Ehsan Khoshbakht is an Iranian filmmaker, curator and author, based in London. His debut feature Filmfarsi (2019), about the lost Iranian cinema of the Shah’s era, was released in the US by Gunpowder/Criterion, and screened at over 50 film festivals and cinematheques around the world. He has also made several archive documentaries for BBC Persian, including Duke Ellington in Esfahan, which was selected for Telluride. Ehsan is co-director of Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, the world’s premier festival for film history and restoration. He regularly programmes seasons around the world, most recently at Cinematheque Francaise in Paris, Cinemateca Portuguesa in Lisbon, MoMA in New York, the Viennale in Vienna, Cinemateket in Copenhagen, and Filmoteca Catalunya in Barcelona. He is the author and editor of several books about cinema, jazz and architecture.

Producer’s profile:

After decades of experience in the film and TV industry, Mary Bell and Adam Dawtrey founded Bofa Productions in 2013 to make cinema documentaries in Scotland. Their credits include A Story of Children and Film (Mark Cousins, 2013), Antonia Bird: From EastEnders to Hollywood (Susan Kemp, 2016), Stockholm My Love (Cousins, 2016), The Eyes of Orson Welles (Cousins, 2018), Iorram (Alastair Cole, 2021), The Story of Looking (Cousins, 2021) and La Sagrada Familia (Borja Alcalde, 2022). They are currently in production with Celluloid Underground (Ehsan Khoshbakht, 2023) and A Sudden Glimpse to Deeper Things (Cousins, 2024). Mary Bell was previously deputy managing director of Hat Trick Productions, where she produced hit TV shows including Father Ted and Have I Got News For You. She won an Oscar for her short film Work Experience. Adam Dawtrey was previously European Editor of Variety.