By Niloufar Rostami
January 15, 2020
At least three Iranian filmmakers were arrested on the night of January 12 after they had taken part in demonstrations held in Tehran’s Azadi Square, sources have told IranWire. The three have since been released.
Filmmaker Rakhshan Bani Etemad, her husband and film producer Jahangir Kowsari and filmmaker Azadeh Mousavi were arrested by security and police forces and taken to unidentified locations.
People from Iran’s film industry, including film stars, took part in protests and vigils held in Tehran on Sunday, sparking commentary on social media. Following their support for public protests, Bani Etemad and another well-known director, Masoud Kimiayi, were insulted on state television.
Many artists have stated publicly that they will not be taking part in this year’s Fajr Festivals, the country’s most important annual art events, which are less than two weeks away, in solidarity with protesters. At least sixty theater companies have declared a boycott of the Fajr Theater Festival. Artists working in a range of fields (music, visual arts, photography) have refused to play a role in the festivals, whether it’s as performers, judges or even audience members.
Fajr Festivals are held every year to commemorate the anniversary of the Iranian revolution.
“This pressure cooker finally exploded,” a theater director told IranWire, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The plane crash, caused by a missile, and the subsequent silence of the authorities, has hurt people so much that this mass resignation is a natural reaction. This was all the artists could do. The wave was so big that, for instance, it included the group resignation of every single judge and participant from one of the festivals.”
The solidarity action was not led by one person in particular and had been spontaneous, the director said.
“How widespread the resignations are shows that there is care for people’s suffering and pain,” the director added.
The Fajr Film Festival has seen fewer withdrawals from industry professionals. It is only Masoud Kimiayi who has said he won’t show his film there, and even that decision was opposed by the film’s producer.
“Cinema is not like theater since showing films hits the pockets,” the theater director told IranWire. “The film budget needs to be returned somehow. Pulling a film out of a festival is taking a massive risk for directors and producers, and they can’t take it.”