IRAN: Foreign artists, local cinematic heavyweights shun Tehran film festival


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As Iran kicked off its biggest cinematic and cultural event of the year today, a glaring number of politically motivated no-shows became evident.

Famed British film director Ken Loach (pictured) and theater director Peter Brook, also from the U.K., were among the Western artists originally scheduled to participate in the Fajr International Film Festival who didn’t attend amid calls for a boycott over Iran’s crackdown on the government opposition.


‘It is the request, first and foremost, from the Iranian filmmakers that makes you think and makes you want to support them,’ the Independent quoted Loach as saying.

‘There are many repressive regimes and you can’t go on individual boycotts,’ he said.

‘But when the people themselves say, ‘Don’t come because you will be endorsing the regime that is perpetrating the violence,’ you have to stop and think carefully,’ he added

Over the last few weeks, a statement issued by a group of Iranian cinematographers, actors and artists urging their foreign counterparts to boycott the festival has been widely circulated and posted online.

‘Your presence in this year’s Fajr festival will be akin to ignoring the struggles of oppressed people of Iran for their rights,’ read a part of the message.

Loach’s film ‘Looking for Eric’ was supposed to be featured in the international section of the festival, and Brook had planned to stage his play ‘The Grand Inquisitor’ at the festival.

Loach apparently sent a letter to the Islamic Republic, informing them of his pullout and explaining the reasons behind his decision.


Other recognized international artistic figures who have withdrawn from the festival, according to the Independent, include French film director Philippe Lioret and Greek art house director Theo Angelopoulos. Acclaimed Palestinian film director Elia Suleiman also is said to be boycotting the festivities.

Aside from the international no-shows at this year’s Fajr festival, local heavyweights in Iranian cinema, such as Iranian filmmaker and director Abbas Kiarostami, are spurning the festival, which is ordinarily a celebration of the Islamic Republic, by refusing to serve as jurors for prizes.

Meanwhile, a report by Iran’s semiofficial Mehr News Agency said Iranian actor Ezzatollah Entezami had declined to participate in the festival because he was sick, and actress Fatemeh Gudarzi, screenwriters Minu Farshchi and Farhad Tohidi and director Asghar Farhadi had given various excuses for not being able to attend the festival, such as conflicting travel plans.

According to the report, festival organizers decided to lift bans on a number of previously censored films this year and allow them to be screened at the festival in an effort to generate buzz for the event.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut