SUNDAY 2 JAN 2011, 11 AM


02 ಜನವರಿ 2011 · 11:00 – 16:00



Don’t Shoot the Messenger

(Article Cortesty: Suchitra Film Society)

Iranian auteur filmmaker Jafar Panahi – The White Balloon (1995), The Mirror (1997), The Circle (2000), Offside (2006) – now sentenced by an Iranian court to six years in prison for “colluding in gathering and making propaganda against the regime,” has also been banned for 20 years from making films, writing scripts, travelling abroad and giving interviews to the domestic or foreign media. Organizations around the world are protesting against the verdict.

It is important at this moment to remember that intolerance and suppression of critical voices are not peculiar to Iran. We have our shameful examples in India, the latest being the life sentence on doctor-activist Dr Binayak Sen on charges of sedition. Panahi, 50, is no stranger to such action in Iran, where he was arrested once in July 2009 for taking part in the mourning for protesters killed after the disputed presidential elections and again in February 2010, along with his family and colleagues. It is sobering to recall that he was also detained by US immigration authorities 10 years ago in New York.

On April 30, 2001, in an open letter to the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures in New York and the international media (released by FIPRESCI), Panahi described how US immigration officials harassed him on April 15, 2001 at the JFK Airport, New York when in transit from Hong Kong for a flight to Buenes Aires. Ironically, the National Board of Review, a prestigious film-appreciation society, had bestowed its “Freedom of Expression” award on Panahi for The Circle in December 2000. (To add a further ironical aside, the National Board of Review was originally conceived in 1909 as a censorship organization).

Panahi wrote: “Since you have seen fit to honour freedom of expression, this is something you clearly value, so I would like to call upon you to defend it… I hope that you and all your colleagues in the US media will dare to condemn the savage acts of US Immigration officials. As a filmmaker obsessed with social issues, my films deal with social problems and limits, and naturally I cannot be indifferent to racist, violent, insulting and inhuman acts in any place in the world.”

He said the US immigration police asked that he be fingerprinted and photographed because of his nationality. When he refused to do it and showed his invitations to the film festivals, they threatened to put him in jail. They didn’t honour his request for either an interpreter or a phone call. They actually had him chained for over 10 hours “like the medieval prisoners” and locked his chain to other people, all “locked to a very dirty bench.” Eventually, they put him on a plane that was going back to Hong Kong.

Panahi said: “In the plane and from my window, I could see New York. I knew my film, The Circle, was released there two days before, and I was told the film was very well received too. Perhaps, audiences would understand my film better if they could know the director of the film was chained at the same time. They would accept my belief that circles of human limits exist in all parts of this world, but in different ratios.

“I saw the Statue of Liberty in the waters, and I unconsciously smiled. I tried to draw the curtain and there were scars of the chain on my hand. I could not stand the other travellers gazing at me and I just wanted to stand up and cry that I’m not a thief! I’m not a murderer! I’m not a drug dealer! I … I am just an Iranian, a filmmaker. But how could I say this? In what language?”

Come watch his films The Circle and The Mirror at Suchitra on Sunday, 2nd January 2001 and STAND UP FOR JAFAR PANAHI.

1 ಟಿಪ್ಪಣಿ (+add yours?)

  1. B T Jahnavi
    ಡಿಸೆ 29, 2010 @ 23:24:53



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