New wave of repression hits prominent filmmakers in Iran

In the shadows of this month’s crackdown on civilian protests against food price hikes in Iran, authorities there are also hunting down filmmakers, a popular sector in Iranian society.

As food protests spread across the country on May 10, security forces went to the home of two internationally renowned documentary directors, Firouzeh Khosrovani and Mina Keshavarz, and arrested them, friends and human rights activists said. said.

Around the same time, they raided the homes of more than 10 other documentary filmmakers and producers and confiscated cell phones, laptops and hard drives, three major guilds in Iran representing the film sector said. statement.

Experts have called it the biggest crackdown on Iran’s film industry in recent years.

The guild said in a statement: “We call on documentary filmmakers to remove a constant environment of fear and anxiety from the lives and work of filmmakers.”

Reihane Taravati, another celebrity in the Iranian film industry who is filming a movie set with a celebrity, has also been arrested with her friend. Iran Human Rights CenterAn independent advocacy group based in New York.

Iran quietly released Khosrovani and Keshavarz until court hearings last Tuesday when actors and directors walked the red carpet in Cannes in sparkly dresses and tuxedos.

On Saturday, the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk, an organization that supports filmmakers facing political persecution, said Keshavarz and Koslavani had been banned from leaving the country for six months. “These measures are dangerous and such artists should be cherished and not persecuted,” he said. in the statement.

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Iranian authorities did not give a reason for the crackdown, but analysts see it as a warning to the growing dissatisfaction of the general public, especially documentary filmmakers.

“It’s a threatening tactic to send messages to other Iranians,” he said. Nader Hashimi, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver with a focus on Iran. “It is also an ideological problem that the Islamic Republic has with these filmmakers.”

Street riots from rising food prices have expanded to at least 20 cities in Iran in recent weeks, reports the Center for Human Rights in Iran. The teachers’ union and the bus driver’s union went on strike, demanding a wage increase and non-payment of wages.

Security forces clashed with protesters in several cities. Human rights groups report that at least two protesters have been killed and others, including teachers, bus drivers, prominent journalists, academics and activists, have been violently suppressed or arrested.

This month, two French nationals were also detained on charges of organizing protests in Iran. Reporters Without Borders, The Paris-based advocacy group said on Twitter. post On Monday, Iranian intelligence officials called in dozens of journalists from Persian accounts to silence them.

The Iranian government has complex relationships with the country’s internationally acclaimed film industry and is trying to control its message and reach while recognizing its success abroad.

Iranian coach Asghar Farhadi was selected as a member last month. Cannes Film Festival jury, Two films by Iranian directors Said Rusta and Ali Abashi, is between official choice.

Last Saturday, Mohammad Khazaei, director of the Iranian Film Organization, a branch of the government that oversees films, said in a statement that “presence at international events is one of the key parts of Iran’s national cinema”, but Only films approved for public screening in .

Roustaee said in an email that his film “Leila’s Brothers” was not licensed for screening by the Iranian Ministry of Culture and that government officials rebuked him for sending the film to Cannes without approval. He also said he had sent him a list of elements that had to be changed or inspected in order to get permission to inspect.

“I will not succumb to censorship,” he added, adding that the list was for the most important and dramatic scenes from the film. “I don’t want my films to be crippled.”

In the past few years, Iran has arrested or prosecuted prominent directors such as Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof for propaganda against the government.

The letter, signed by more than 50 filmmakers and actors, said: “The job security of filmmakers has fallen to the lowest level due to the involvement of security agencies in the film sector as well as extensive censorship. Posted on Rasoulof’s Instagram page after the recent crackdown.

Many Iranian filmmakers still maintain a delicate balance to create their work, using fables and personal, intimate stories to depict the widespread struggle that afflicts Iranians.

“The Iranian government knows there are redlines we have to follow,” said Iranian film director Farzad Jafari, who is also a member of the guild. “We all know this, so we follow it.”

Ms. In Khosravani’s latest film, “Radiography of the family”, Recipient of the Best Feature Documentary Award at the 2020 Amsterdam International Documentary Festival, she explored the country’s turbulent history through her parents’ relationship.

The film depicts the impact of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, focusing on the distance between her western father and a religious mother who became a loyal servant of the revolution that overthrew the monarchy. Paintings, art and wine disappeared from her home, and music ceased.

“This is the experience of my life torn between two pillars,” Khosrovani said. interview When her film premiered in 2021 Rookie Director/Rookie Movie, New York’s annual festival. “The dichotomy in the house is like the dichotomy in our society.”

In Keshavarz’s film, “Breaking the waves”, She told the story of a rural Iranian woman who set up a market that employs hundreds of local women.

Khosravi and Keshavarz were released on bail after their family provided deeds of property as a guarantee, and none of the three women arrested have been officially charged, their friend said. Jafari said authorities returned Khosrovani and Keshavarz’s equipment and hard drives, but not other items confiscated in the house raid.

While arrests and raids are spreading unrest in Iran’s creative arts scene, Ahmad Kiarostami, head of the Iranian Documentary Festival in the United States, said the repression could discourage Iranian documentary filmmakers who have deliberately embraced a dangerous path with little financial space. He said he had doubts. compensation.

“It’s almost impossible to make money from movies. It’s pure love, doing it with passion.”. “I don’t think anyone can stop this passion.”

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