November 4, 2019
In one of the most explicit attacks on film censorship in Iran, more than 200 Iranian film industry activists have protested obstacles in their profession, including tight censorship, and the government’s inability to stand by its licensing rules in the face of intervention by non-government authorities.
“We deplore the policy of inquisition into the form and content of the movies, in any context,” the Iranian movie artists asserted in their ten-point statement, adding that they demand freedom of thought and expression.
The statement published on Saturday, October 2, affirms, “We, the people of cinema, are a group of directors, screenwriters, producers, actors, and actresses whose profession has been under attack and damaged for years.”
Almost all prominent figures of Iranian cinema, including Academy Award winner Asghar Farhadi, internationally acclaimed Ja’far Panahi, Mohammad Rasoulof and Bahman Qobadi, as well as veteran filmmakers Nasser Taqwaei, Rakhshan Bani Etemad, and critically acclaimed and legendary film and theater director Bahram Bayzaie, are among the signatories to the statement.
“Job security” is one of the moviemakers’ main concerns raised in the statement. “Many filmmakers have been imprisoned and banned from leaving the country merely for directing critical movies,” the statement has asserted, adding, “Obvious discrimination in allocating projects, as well as censorship and suppression of freedom of expression have forced several filmmakers and stars into unwanted immigration.”
Meanwhile, the filmmakers have complained about numerous centers in charge of checking their works, while pirates are free to circulate their movies without paying copyright.
As recently as last week, the movie, “The Paternal House”, directed by the veteran filmmaker, Kianoush Ayyari, was screened after a decade of being shelved by the censorship authority. However, within days, the movie was banned again following an order issued by the Prosecutor-General of the Islamic Republic.
The moviemakers have specifically protested facing “murderous barriers,” whenever they seek a license to screen their works.
None of the members of the board that issues licenses for screening movies in Iran have reacted to the statement, so far.
In recent years, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders have started a creeping move to dominate the Iranian film industry.
However, many critics insist that films produced by the IRGC and people linked to it, are mainly “banal” movies made for “propaganda” purposes and pursue “political ends.”
Without naming the powerful IRGC, the statement says, the government and “certain” bodies are supporting “particular” movies through suspicious investments.
Radio Farda’s film critic, Babak Ghafouri Azar, believes that the statement is one of the most explicit and harshest attacks of its kind on the Islamic Republic bodies responsible for censorship and checking movies in Iran.
Furthermore, Ghafouri Azar says that for the first time, movie makers affiliated with the office of the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, including Rouhollah Hejazi have joined dissident directors such as award-winning Jafar Panahi and self-exiled master director, Bahram Bayzaie, to protest censorship and tight controls over the Iranian film industry.
Meanwhile, for unknown reasons, two Iranian veteran film directors, Daryoush Mehrjouei and Massoud Kimiaie, have preferred not to sign the statement.
The statement is published at a time when the government-controlled House of Cinema has written a letter to the head of the Islamic Republic Judiciary, hardliner cleric Ebrahim Raeesi, requesting an audience.
Raeesi, unsuccessful challenger of the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani in the 2017 presidential election, has been establishing his role as the final arbiter in industrial and labor disputes among other things.