Iran wants to fund more anti-US films as celebrities turn on regime

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Iran’s parliament will on Sunday vote on a motion that would compel the ministry of culture to support the production of anti-US films, as Tehran faces growing dissent from prominent figures in the industry.

The motion is part of a raft, including one which calls for the establishment of a museum featuring US “crimes” and another which would see a ban on foreign journalists working with media outlets “supportive of Washington’s cruel sanctions” on Tehran.

Tensions between the Islamic Republic, the US and its Western allies have been strained since President Donald Trump pulled America out of the nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, but have soared since the killing of Iran’s revered commander, Qassem Soleimani.

Iran initially attempted to cover up its accidental downing of a Ukranian airlines plane that took off from Tehran’s international airport, killing all 176 mainly Iranian and dual national passengers on board.

Film director and actors were among thousands who took to the streets in protest after authorities finally admitted firing the rockets which brought down the passenger jet.

The motions, which are expected to pass, are seen as an attempt to use the soft power of cinema to stoke anti-US sentiment.

“It’s hard to believe,” said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at Crisis Group, that “as Iran’s government reels from its shocking handling of the Ukrainian jet tragedy, economic stagflation and political stagnation, the parliament is making time to discuss anti-US films and museum, and banning foreign journalists.”

At least three filmmakers were arrested over the weekend after taking part in one of the vigils for the dead in the capital Tehran’s Azadi Square.

Days later, more than 30 Iranian artists, filmmakers and actors pulled movies from the government-sponsored Fajr film festival – Iran’s equivalent of the Oscars – in solidarity with the jetliner victims’ families.

Those withdrawing include prominent singer Alireza Assar, director Masoud Kimiai and actresses Fatemeh Motamed Arya and Mahtab Keramati.

Mr Kimiai, who pulled his film There Was Blood from the festival, said. “It’s a hard time for my people and they hear bad news every day. Under these circumstances I don’t want my film to be shown, it would not be right.”

Another of the signatories, the well-known filmmaker Rakhshan Bani Etemad, was briefly detained and interrogated for several hours after she called for a nationwide vigil for the victims.

According to her family, she was warned by authorities to no longer work in the film industry and not to speak in public about her treatment.

A government official has also reportedly threatened a life-long ban from the industry for all those participating in the boycott.

Taraneh Alidoosti, one of the most famous actresses in Iran who appeared in an Oscar-nominated film, wrote to her six million fans, on her Instagram page: “Been fighting with myself for a long time and didn’t want to admit. We are not citizens. We have never been. We’re hostages. Millions of hostages.”

President Hassan Rouhani, who had been largely viewed as a relative moderate in Iran, was re-elected in 2017 on the promises of economic prosperity and greater social freedoms.

But artists, academics and those who speak out against the state continue to be detained and threatened by the Islamic Republic’s powerful Revolutionary Guards. Internal dissent at times of such crisis is treated as treason.

“This pressure cooker finally exploded,” said one theatre director in Tehran, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The plane crash, caused by a missile, and the subsequent silence of the authorities, has hurt people so much that this mass resignation is a natural reaction.

“This was all the artists could do,” he said. “The wave was so big that, for instance, it included the resignation of every single judge and participant from one of the festivals.”

The rift over how the crash was handled also spread to the official news media, with a number of popular TV presenters resigning.

Gelare Jabbari, the host of state TV’s Channel Two programs, posted a public apology on her Instagram page.

“It was very hard for me to believe the murdering of my countrymen. Forgive me for believing it too late,” she wrote to followers. “I apologise for lying to you on TV for 13 years.”

Source » telegraph

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