As protests continue to erupt in Iran and around the world, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini — the young Iranian woman who died last week while being held in custody by vice squad for allegedly wearing a loose headscarf — the film community is of the country deeply engaged and well aware that their voices are now even more at risk of being destroyed.
Two-time Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”), who currently chairs the jury of the Zurich Film Festival, has released a statement and a video call calling on artists around the world to show their solidarity with the Iranian people protesting the death of Amini.
Iran’s vice squad arrested Amini, who was 22, in Tehran on September 13. She died three days later at a police station. Police say she died of a heart attack, but she had no history of heart disease.
In an unprecedented wave of street protests in Iran, women have ripped off their hijabs, twisted them in the air and threw them into bonfires, online videos show.
“I’ve seen them up close these nights,” Farhadi said in his call. “Most of them are very young – 17 years, 20 years old. I saw indignation and hope in their faces and in the way they marched through the streets,” said Farhadi.
“I deeply respect their struggle for freedom and the right to choose their own destiny, despite all the atrocities they are subjected to. I am proud of the powerful women of my country and I sincerely hope that through their efforts they will achieve their goals,” the director added.
“I invite all artists, filmmakers, intellectuals, civil rights activists from all over the world and all countries, and everyone who believes in human dignity and freedom to stand in solidarity with the powerful and brave women and men of Iran by making videos, in writing or otherwise,” Farhadi insisted.
Iranian actor and film director Pegah Ahangarani (“The Locust”), who attended one of the many demonstrations around the world in response to Amini’s death in Berlin on Friday, pointed out that “after years of oppression, Iranian women are now saying ‘enough is enough’ and showing unprecedented courage.”
But Iranian filmmakers are also aware that this latest development, prompted by the Iranian government’s continued crackdown, could exacerbate the difficult conditions in which they already operate.
“Clearly, filmmakers and creatives are among the most effective voices that will unfortunately be targeted” as part of Iran’s even stronger crackdown, Ahangarani said.
Orwa Nyrabia, president of the Berlin-based International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR), which is in close contact with arrested Iranian film directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, underlined that “polarization in Iran is reaching new heights. This will mean a more aggressive regime, and this will put political filmmaking at a very high risk.”
“Either we’re witnessing a negotiation where some sort of balance can come out of this, or we’re going to witness something as repressive as what we’ve seen in Syria or what’s happening in Russia,” the Syrian multi-hyphenate said. who is also artistic director of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.
For Iranian filmmakers, there is a risk that “the majority will eventually leave their country, and Iranian cinema will be established in Europe and in the US,” Nyrabia stressed.