Iran General NewsIranian Director Censored at Home, Praised Abroad

Iranian Director Censored at Home, Praised Abroad

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Reuters: Celebrated Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, the subject of a major retrospective in Britain, would never get the same treatment at home, where he says authorities have not shown his work for the past 10 years. The winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s coveted Palme d’Or in 1997, and regarded by the film industry as one of the most important
living directors, Kiarostami is used to struggling with a government wary of work it perceives as subversive. Reuters

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON – Celebrated Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, the subject of a major retrospective in Britain, would never get the same treatment at home, where he says authorities have not shown his work for the past 10 years.

The winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s coveted Palme d’Or in 1997, and regarded by the film industry as one of the most important living directors, Kiarostami is used to struggling with a government wary of work it perceives as subversive.

But the 64-year-old insists that he is not out to test Tehran’s patience.

“My objective is not to test the limits of censorship,” he told Reuters Wednesday at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where his installation art and photography will be on display as part of a festival in his honor.

Kiarostami, who heads a panel of judges at Cannes this year that awards the Camera d’Or for first film, added through a translator: “There are many simple topics in everyday life that are worthy of treatment and investigation.”

While he maintains that a film like “Ten” has no “direct” political message, it features a female driver in Tehran who has divorced her husband and gives a ride to a prostitute.

“The rotten law in this society of ours gives no rights to women!” the character shouts at one point.

IRANIAN VS. ISLAMIC CULTURE

“Ironically, even in these simple films the (Iranian) authorities think there must be a complex hidden message behind it,” Kiarostami said, explaining why his films were banned.

“What you need to appreciate is that the authorities have neither a quarrel with me nor my films. They have a quarrel with the audience of my films.

“It is because they as a group represent a force; that is why they are perceived as being a possible problem.”

Kiarostami described the relationship between the Iranian authorities and directors like himself as a “status quo.”

“Nobody is doing anything to change it,” he said. “I have accepted it as a reality.”

Kiarostami draws a distinction between Iranian culture and Islamic culture, indicating that the latter tended to be the main restrictive force in his country.

“We should note that in the last 28 years, no movie theater has been constructed.”

He did not blame President Mohammad Khatami for failing to guarantee freedoms in Iran, but did say economic hardship was a major concern.

“Increasingly high inflation, unemployment; it is this economic suffering that has caused the hopelessness, particularly among the young.”

ACCOLADES

French director Jean-Luc Godard has been quoted as saying: “Film begins with D.W. Griffith, and ends with Abbas Kiarostami.” Such accolades embarrass the filmmaker, who believes they are more apt to describe a person who has died.

But his techniques and ideas are seen as groundbreaking.

In “Ten,” he filmed the entire movie from fixed cameras inside a car, and there was no script.

“I was just smoking cigarettes while it was being filmed,” he smiled from behind his trademark dark glasses.

In “A Taste of Cherry,” which won in Cannes in 1997, the film ends not with the suicide of the main character, but with shots of the film crew packing up and the actor very much alive.

Kiarostami will have mixed memories of the Cannes festival.

When he won in 1997 and embraced French actress Catherine Deneuve at the awards ceremony, he was forced to delay his return to Iran because of the controversy caused at home by what he later called the “disastrous” kiss.

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