Despite international success, Iranian film industry under fire at home

Studio 360

A Separation won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film last week and is considered a strong contender to win an Academy Award as well.

Asghar Farhadi is the latest Iranian director to achieve acclaim in the West — but he’s working under tight government controls at home. Despite its success abroad, the Iranian film 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 said 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 said.

Pitts’ new film, The Hunter was produced in Iran in accordance with existing regulations but has now been banned. The movie, which takes place on the eve of the rigged 2009 election, centers on 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 said, “and the film became more and more political due to them, not due to me as a filmmaker.”

Pitts said 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,” he said. “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.”

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