Iran Cracks Down on Film
Friday, January 20, 2012
Earlier this week, A Separation won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, and is considered a strong contender for the Academy Award. Asghar Farhadi is the latest Iranian director to achieve acclaim in the West while working under tight government controls. Despite success abroad, though, the industry is in serious trouble at home. Prominent directors have been jailed, and last week the government shut down the House of Cinema, Iran's largest independent film institute.
Filmmaker Rafi Pitts says that Farhadi missed an opportunity to address the situation in his acceptance speech for the Globe. "The Iranian film industry has been pushed back to the early days of the revolution, where cinema [was] frowned upon," Pitts tells Kurt Andersen.
[Update 1/24: Farhadi sent a letter to Iran's Ministry of Culture on January 12 calling for a vote on the decision to close the House of Cinema.]
Pitts' new film The Hunter was produced in Iran in accordance with regulations but has now been banned. The movie, which takes place on the eve of the rigged 2009 election, portrays a security guard in Tehran who turns to violence after his wife and daughter are accidentally killed by the police during a protest.
Pitts, who is living in exile in Paris, insists The Hunter wasn't meant to be a political statement. "I made my film within the rules of my country, of the board of censorship," he says, "and the film became more and more political due to them, not due to me as a filmmaker." He believes the government's crackdown on the House of Cinema and other forms of expression is shortsighted. "Authorities in Iran should understand that what takes mankind forward is culture," Pitts says. "As filmmakers, we hold up a mirror. It's not our fault if anybody looks at themselves in the mirror and thinks that they're ugly."
Incidental Music from "The Hunter"Album: The HunterLabel: Olive Films