Iran mulling Venice film festival boycott over EU sanctions

TEHRAN: Iran is thinking of boycotting the next Venice international film festival because of EU sanctions, a Culture Ministry official in charge of supervising the country’s cinema industry was quoted as saying Monday.

“Considering that the EU has imposed the strongest inhumane and illegal sanctions against Iran, we are naturally thinking of boycotting the Venice film festival,” the official, Alireza Sajjadpur, said in a report published in the Tehran Times newspaper.

“We are currently assessing the situation,” he continued, adding that Iranian films were the “highlight” of Western festivals, according to the newspaper report picked up from the ISNA news agency.

There are no Iranian movies selected to compete in the main section vying for Venice’s Golden Lion award (though a U.S. director of Iranian descent, Ramin Bahrani, is on the list with his “At Any Price.”)

The one Iranian film chosen for the official lineup in Italy, in the out-of-competition Horizon section, is “The Paternal House.”

Sajjadpur said Tehran would not give permission to screen the movie, which depicts problems faced by Iranian women in a patriarchal family, unless it undergoes “corrections.” “I hope the report isn’t true,” he said, adding the film would screen in Venice.

Iran’s regime reserves the right to decide whether films from the country can be shown or not, depending on how they portray life and characters in the country.

At last year’s Cannes film festival, “This is not a Film” by Jafar Panahi, the celebrated Iranian director awaiting the start of a six-year prison sentence for “propaganda against the regime,” was smuggled out on a USB flash drive hidden in a cake.

The European Union drastically ramped up sanctions imposed on Iran in July, enforcing an embargo on Iranian oil imports because of its disputed nuclear program.

The Venice film festival runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8 and features movies from around the world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 31, 2012, on page 16.




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