Venice 2022 Iran suppresses director Jafar Panahi Mohammad Rasoulof – The Hollywood Reporter
As the Venice Film Festival celebrates Iranian cinema – with four Iranian films showing at the 79th Biennale – returns home to Tehran, Iranian filmmakers and artists are facing the harshest crackdown in many decade.
The hard-line government of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has stepped up pressure on dissident artists and all those who criticize the regime. In July, authorities arrested three famous directors: Mostafa Al-eahmad (2009 .) Poosteh), 2020 Berlin Golden Bear Winner Mohammad Rasoulof (There is no evil) and Jafar Panahi, winner of the Golden Lion of Venice for Dayereh (2000) and the Berlin Golden Bear for taxi (2015).
Al-eahmad and Rasoulof are among 170 prominent Iranian filmmakers, artists and actors who signed an open letter on May 29 calling on the country’s security forces to “lay down their arms” and stand together. and people in a government described in the letter as rife with “corruption, theft, inefficiency and repression.” The letter was in response to the brutal suppression of protests following the collapse of a 10-story building in the city of Abadan that left dozens dead.
On August 16, the Iranian Film Organization, a government agency affiliated with Iran’s Ministry of Culture, took the unusual step of announcing it would soon publish a “blacklist” of filmmakers who will be banned. prohibited from working unless they oppose the regime. .
“The blacklist is a conspiracy to get the filmmakers who signed the open letter to publicly distance themselves from it, to claim they don’t know what they signed,” said a prominent Iranian producer. The Hollywood Reporterspoke on condition of anonymity.
Panahi, one of Iran’s most famous and acclaimed directors, was arrested while visiting the prosecutor’s office to inquire about Rasoulof’s arrest. In 2011, Panahi and Rasoulof received a 20-year film ban and several years in prison for alleged anti-regime propaganda, although both have continued to operate undercover and to date, neither of them imprisoned.
Human Rights Watch said the recent arrests were part of a broader crackdown on dissidents, as Tehran wanted to distract from the “worsening economic situation” in the country. country, which is in a period of severe recession and a clear stalemate in the government’s efforts to restore its nuclear agreement with the international community. Iranian authorities have also stepped up their crackdown on women, introducing new restrictions on women’s dress and tightening enforcement of the country’s mandatory headscarves.
Shiva Rahbaran, an Iranian writer and author of Iran Cinema Uncensored, said: “It all goes together, the regime has always been the enemy of cinema, art and women, because they are all signs sign of modernity. Government censorship and repression, she said, is a “dog day phenomenon” in Iran, with the Tehran regime “opening up a little, creating a little gap, breathing space and then again.” collapsed as soon as critically acclaimed films and their producers became too popular for everyone. “
But the current crackdown, she said, is a step away from what happened before. Rahbaran points to Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, about wanting to bring the country back to the 1980s, right after the Islamic revolution, “when the Islamic ideology was strong and the revolution had a very large and widespread base among the people.” The problem, says Rahbaran, is that Iranian society has evolved. Instead of supporting religious hardliners, much of the country backs dissident filmmakers.
“The filmmakers are extremely popular among the population, and the more the government represses them, the more popular they become,” she notes. “A filmmaker likes [two-time Oscar winner] Asghar Farhadi, who has never used his platform to criticize the brutal regime, is very unpopular in Iran, he has no such standing in the hearts of the people.”
In addition to selecting four Iranian films this year – Panahi’s latest, No bearsand Vahid Jalilvand’s Beyond the wall will debut in competition on Lido, Houman Seyedi’s Third World War and Arian Vazirdaftari’s Without her in the sidebar of Venice’s Horizons – Venice will show what it calls “maximum solidarity” with Iranian directors with a series of public events, including a “fast crowd” on the red carpet on the day September 9 right before the threshold No bears premiere. Directors, actors and other key figures will be invited to name the imprisoned artists, including Rasoulof and Panahi. A panel in Venice on September 3 will discuss the situation of abusive directors around the world and debate what the rest of the film world can do to help.
These types of film festival protests are nothing new. The Cannes Film Festival beat Tehran in its opening ceremony in 2010, leaving a symbolic chair for Panahi, who was invited to join the competition’s jury despite being under house arrest and unable to leave Iran. Berlin did the same “empty seat” move as Panahi in 2011. Like Cannes, Berlin made Panahi a member of the jury. Several major film festivals, including Cannes, Venice and Berlin, have publicly called for the release of all dissident filmmakers imprisoned in Iran.
It is hoped that the public pressure generated by such statements and protests will force change and improve the situation of filmmakers on the ground. But some warn that they can have the opposite effect.
“The new government are hardliners, and the most important thing for them is to show tough anti-Western, anti-American records,” said an Iranian producer with decades of experience in negotiations. government censorship rules noted. “When international festivals put on a show, give an empty seat to Panahi in Berlin or whatever, it makes the regime more repressive against filmmakers.”
Success of Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider at Cannes this year – the Iranian serial killer film won the best actress title for Zar Amir-Ebrahimi – led to an immediate backlash. Iran’s Culture Minister Mehdi Esmaili warned that those who worked on Holy Spider will be “punished”, raising concerns about the fate of the film’s Iranian editor Hayedeh Safiyari. (Abbasi and most of the cast and crew, including Amir-Ebrahimi, live outside of Iran.)
The producer said, “I want to see festivals that only screen and praise Iranian films without attacking the regime. “Too much attention will make it harder to get these directors out of jail because
the government wants to show that it does not listen to the voices of the West and the demands of the West. “
However, many see Iran’s recent crackdown as the last outbreak of a dying regime.
“It’s definitely a sign of fear and weakness, of lack of popularity, of being a government with very little public support,” Rahbaran said. “It will make things harder for artists and people. But just how many filmmakers, how many women can they be jailed? How many people can they kill? “