November 9, 2021
Some Iranian films currently waiting to be licensed for screening in Iran are “inappropriate and un-Islamic”, the new Minister of Culture has said. Speaking in an interview for Iranian state television on Saturday, Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili, wondered aloud: “Is our cinema situation acceptable, in terms of issues and priorities? I’m in charge of overseeing movies, and I can’t do things just so they’ll make everyone happy. The cinema situation is really bad. I feel obligated to watch these films and I see some of them are problematic. If I’m not willing to watch a movie with my family, how can I allow other people to watch it?”
In another part of his speech, Esmaili then acknowledged censorship was a core part of what he considered his role to be. “Our management department at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance supports works that pay attention to the original Iranian-Islamic culture,” he said. “I consider myself a soldier of these people and the system, and I will emphasize my serious commitment and protection of Iranian-Islamic culture until the day I’ve [fully] served the people.”
The comments are a sign that the precedent set by the previous government continue. Under the Rouhani administration, many Iranian-made films were banned at the outset, including 19 by Manijeh Hekmat, Creation Between Two Surfaces by Hossein Rajabian, 3 Faces by Jafar Panahi, Lord by Mohammad Rasulov, Erdatmand [Sincerely Yours] Nazanin, Bahareh, Tina by Abdolreza Kahani, Sofa by Kianoosh Ayari, 50 Kilos of Cherries by Mani Haghighi, and Writing on the City by Keywan Karimi.
To get their films screened in Iranian cinemas or broadcast on TV, directors are forced to self-censor in compliance with orders from the Ministry of Culture and Guidance. Manijeh Hekmat recently revealed that the Ministry’s directors informed her she would have to cut a full 40 minutes of footage from her 80-minute film in order to obtain a broadcast license.