Three Years Later, Conservatives Are Still Blocking “I’m Not Angry” From Screening in Iran
After finally receiving approval to screen his movie “I’m Not Angry” in Iran, director Reza Dormishian’s film was suddenly removed from theaters before its scheduled national premiere on December 20, 2017.
On December 18, Gholamreza Faraji, the spokesman for the Iranian Screeners’ Guild, which works closely with the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry, said the film’s opening had to be postponed due to “an over-concentration of films currently being shown.”
His announcement came one day after Guidance Minister Reza Salehi Amiri received a warning from a radical religious student organization stating that screening the movie in Iran would lead to violence.
“Mr. Minister! We warn you that we will never be silent towards insults against our Islamic state and the blood of the martyrs. If this film is not stopped from being screened, the Guidance Ministry will get a slap from the student movement and the rest of the honorable Iranian people,” said a letter dated December 17 from the Students’ Basij Organization.
“The student movement hereby warns… that it will never retreat from confronting any attempt to cross the Islamic Republic’s red lines, namely the glorification of the 2009 sedition,” added the letter.
The group is based at Imam Sadiq University, one of the country’s most important religious educational institutions based in Tehran. The Basij is an all-volunteer paramilitary force that is an arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Soon after the film was produced, “I’m Not Angry” was screened at the Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran in February 2014 after Dormishian agreed to remove 17 minutes from the end of the film, which casts a positive light on the nationwide protests against the result of Iran’s 2009 presidential election.
The Green Movement arose out of those peaceful protests—violently repressed by the state—that swept Iran after the election, and are still a highly sensitive subject in Iran, referred to by hardliners as “the sedition.”
After President Hassan Rouhani’s re-election in May 2017, Dormishian’s film was among several banned films re-evaluated by the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry for screening. Dormishian waited three years to receive a permit from the ministry to screen “I’m Not Angry” nationally.
The film tells the story of Navid, a student expelled from university for his political activities, and his fiancé Baran, whom he cannot afford to marry. Conservatives have accused the two leading actors of participating in the 2009 protests and thus concluded that the film endorses dissent against the Islamic Republic.
Despite being harshly criticized by religious and political conservatives, the film was the most popular Fajr Film Festival entry and received four award nominations. However, Dormishian was pressured to pull his film from the competition category, and later explained that he did it “out of respect for Iranian cinema and to preserve calm.”
Even though it was banned from being shown in Iran, “I’m Not Angry” was submitted, with the last 17 minutes intact, to several foreign international film festivals abroad and received a number of awards and nominations, further angering the film’s opponents.
In October 2014, Iran’s Parliamentary Committee for Cultural Affairs (then under control of conservatives) called on the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry to ban eight Iranian films that were allegedly pro-Green Movement, including “I’m Not Angry.”
“The filmmaker himself has issues with the state and injects his views into the film from start to finish,” said conservative MP Ahmad Salek, who was chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Cultural Affairs at the time, on October 20, 2014.
On the other hand, conservative MP and Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Ali Motahari praised “I’m Not Angry.”
“It was a good film that depicted the realities in society,” he said on May 10, 2014. “I think it was put aside by Fajr film festival judges because of the negative climate surrounding it.”