Prominent Iranian Directors Decry Censorship After Minister Bans Films From Tehran Fajr Festival
Less than three months into his new post as culture and Islamic guidance minister, Reza Salehi Amiri boasted about banning ten films from entering the Tehran Fajr International Film Festival, “in line with the policies of the supreme leader,” on January 19, 2017.
“For the first time, we cut out films with feminist and inappropriate themes and supported 30 films made by young directors about the sacred defense (Iran-Iraq War),” he said during a meeting with Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, a senior Qom-based theologian.
Amiri did not name the films, but the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has learned that they included productions by directors who focused in part on controversial topics like the hijab, which the Islamic Republic forces all women to cover their hair with in public, and domestic violence.
Some directors who had their films banned have responded angrily to the ban by decrying the government’s repeated interference with their artistic process.
“I will no longer make any films where women are wearing headscarves in a private space or in front of strangers,” said veteran Iranian director Kianoush Ayari, via a statement on his website on January 8, after learning that his latest film, Kanape (“Canopy”), was rejected even after he tried to pacify censors by showing four actresses wearing wigs to avoid religious objections to their shaved heads.
“I’m in this situation because of my commitment to realism,” he added.
Tahmineh Milani, one of Iran’s leading female directors, also blamed the censors.
“The truth is that my film deals with the subject of domestic violence, which is very important to me and my husband, and that’s why it was not accepted by the festival’s selection committee,” she wrote on her Instagram page. “That’s the only reason.”
“I hope when it’s released in cinemas, it will help reduce domestic violence,” she added. “We believe it deserved to be supported, but that didn’t happen.”
Salehi took over the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance in November 2016 after the resignation of his predecessor, Ali Jannati, who fought many political battles with hardline conservatives over censorship and cultural issues.