KurdishCinema
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Ghobadi has been banned of shooting films in Iran!

Devrim Kilic / Melbourne - February 5 / 2007

    The famous Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi who has
    been chosen as one of the top living 100 filmmakers in
    the world last year will no longer be able to shoot a film in
    Iran according to the decision of Cinema Office of Iranian
    Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry. Ghobadi’s wrote
    an open letter at his production company Mij Film’s
    official web site and stated that the banning is a
    nonsense decision. Ghobadi said in his statement that
    he is banned of shooting films just because of his
Kurdish origin. Interestingly Ghobadi’s last film ‘Nive Heyve’, Kurdish for ‘Half Moon’, that won
the best film award at the 54th San Sebastian International Film Festival in 2006, was banned
in Iran on the basis that it was a separatist film. It is expected that the banning of Ghobadi will
attract international reaction from all over the world, especially from the artistic community.

“Don’t shoot the film in Kurdish”

Although the decision of Iranian Culture Ministry does not articulate the reason of banning it
seems the ‘Kurdishness’ in Ghobadi’s films is to blame. Ghobadi said in his letter that he will
oppose the decision and asks the ministry to abandon the banning as soon as possible
otherwise he will shoot his films in an appropriate country. Ghobadi stated; “A while ago to my
utmost disbelief I saw a piece of news on a cinema website stating that the public relations
office of the Cinema Department in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has
announced the following statement: "Under current circumstances and according to
numerous reasons and based on regulations production of any film by Bahman Ghobadi is
not within the professional filmmaking agenda of the General Censors Office". My disbelief
was affirmed when I saw the Islamic Republic official seal and title of the Ministry of Guidance
at the bottom of the letter.” Ghobadi said that the banning is its first kind which occurs in Iran
after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. According to Ghobadi once he made the inquiry about the
banning the officers at Cinema Department denied the decision and said it was a
misunderstanding but when he asked to make an official announcement about the
misunderstanding they did not do anything. Ghobadi stated “That means to say something
verbally but act differently, that ultimately it means confirmation of the so called
misunderstanding, that I am prohibited from working.”

Ghobadi states that the problems have
started when first attempted to shoot
Half Moon as he was informally advised
“not to make the film in Kurdish”.
Ghobadi said in his letter “I sensed a
rise of problems resulting from sort of
a dictating mind frame that ended in
refusing to give the negative stock and
cameras that were collecting dust in the
storage. If I can excuse what went on
before, by no means I can forbear what
is developing now. It has been several
months now that under vague pretexts
the Censors Office has evaded the
issuance of a screening permit for Half Moon. I have cut the film short several times to these
gentlemen’s taste and the short versions are available too. Each time, however, it has taken
theses gentlemen weeks to respond after which the vicious circle has just repeated.”

Could not start to shoot his new film

Moreover it is learnt that Ghobadi could not start to shoot his last project which does not have
anything to do with Kurdish and Kurdistan. The film would be taking place in Tehran but
Cinema Department officers has not yet issued production permit. Ghobadi stated that the
stance of Cinema Department reveals “a wave of hostility towards” him some other directors:
“This is why the multiple mention of the pre-revolution actor whose presence in an Iranian film
I have officially denied and said that his presence will depend on obtaining official permission
from the Censors Office, is only an excuse in the hands of those attempting to suppress
differing ideas. I do reserve the right for myself though, that if production conditions are not
provided in Iran I will make the film with my intended actor in any country that will render
suitable.”

Separatist films, separatist director!

Additionally Ghobadi said that he was accused of being separatist because of his last feature
film Half Moon, by the Censors Office. Ghobadi said he is an Iranian Kurd but against the
disintegration of even an inch of Iran. As said by Ghobadi after being labeled as separatist a
national Iranian newspaper published a broad article against him. The rest of Ghobadi’s
statement as follows: “Interestingly, the newspaper that does not tolerate any other voice but
their own opinions publishes a detailed report against me clearly attesting to a wave of anger
towards me whose name has appeared among the 100 top directors in the world listed in a
book by the reputable Taschen publications. This anger though, deems more of an excuse to
instigate the controversy on my behalf that I am a separatist, and a member of the Censor
Office, apparently himself a director, is among the interviewees in this report making irrelevant
statements to the unaware-of-the subject public to undermine my reputation in their mind.
Truly, is this an act of separatism by the member of the Censor Office or is it my predestined
situation as an Iranian Kurd? Obviously, a tendency seems to exist attempting to eliminate
many successful filmmakers such as myself and others to make room for the so called
minions. But these gentlemen ignore the fact that I, as an artist have not stepped into this
domain on someone else’s request or desire in the first place to be pressed to back off. As an
Iranian Kurdish filmmaker with international reputation I have remained silent although my
work has been halted for months. And this silence each time has provoked these gentlemen
to become more reckless and feel more powerful. Now, however, I warn you that according to
the Constitution, no person, organization or institution can stop me from my professional
conduct. The whole entity of the Cinema Department is formed on the basis of our presence
as filmmakers and its existence leans on our activities not vice versa. But now our servitors in
an organization whose fundamental duty involves serving the art and artists and facilitate our
working conditions, requests individuals like me to serve their purposes because my only fault
is that I am a Kurd. The statement therefore, by the Censors office is entirely meaningful: "Due
to numerous problems and according to regulations, production of any film by Bahman
Ghobadi is not within the working agenda of this office." I will not forget and neither will history,
nor I caution you not to forget that time is the greatest of all judges. The history of this land and
its cinema will someday judge as to what futile efforts you have undertaken to direct the minds
of the artists like me towards what you believe is right. The three decade precedence of post-
revolution cinema has not become so distant for you to forget that use of force and exercise of
power that only lasts a short while will not make you succeed at molding any artists including
myself to your own taste. Now as filmmaker, I warn you that if the Censors Office in the Ministry
of Culture and Islamic Guidance refuses to issue permit for the making of my new film, I will
personally take action and start its shooting in the streets of Tehran, for them to come and
collect my equipments so that I can see based on what bogus new law they will brake the
hands of my camera and blind the eyes of my film.”

The fact is that this is not the first time Ghobadi facing restriction from the Iranian censors.
When Bahman Ghobadi completed his second feature film, -“Marooned in Iraq’ originally titled
as ‘The Songs of My Motherland’- and applied for screening permission for the film he has
been told by Iranian authorities that the original title of the film, “The Songs of My Motherland”
was too “nationalist”. The authorities advised him to change the title but Ghobadi resisted
keeping the original title. As a result of this dilemma his second feature, which later titled by
the distribution company as “Marooned in Iraq”, was only screened in one theater in Iran in the
city of Tehran, apart from Kurdistan region of Iran.

    Likewise young Iranian woman director Samira Makmalbaf’s
    second feature film “Blackboards” made in 2000, which tells the
    plight of Kurdish teachers and victims of Halabja massacre
    wandering on the mountains of Kurdistan, had faced same kind
    of trouble because of its Kurdish content and thus the film had to
    be smuggled out of Iraq and completed in Italy.


* KurdishcCinema.com

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