Egypt: Oscar-winning Iranian film banned from screening at Cairo University

An Egyptian university banned the screening of an award winning Iranian film last week. The film A Separation”was due to be screened at Cairo University on 8 March, but objections from fundamentalist university groups led to the screening permit to be revoked. The film, which has won several international awards, tackles issues relating to immigration. The fundamentalist groups who objected to the screening of the film claimed it promoted Shiasm, secularism, and al-Assad’s regime at the expense of Syria, though these are not said to be themes of the film.

‘A Separation’ and a new form of censorship in film

Tomorrow, the Cinema Office of Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance must decide on the country’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film for the 2012 Oscars. The obvious choice would be A Separation, director Asghar Frahadi’s latest film that screened worldwide this year with overwhelming success. In An Iranian Movie ‘Masterpiece’…And why it may not make it to the Oscars, Ali Chenar presents the convoluted issues and politics at play, exposing a whole new dimension to censorship of film in Iran.

Of course the impact on any artist attempting to pursue their work in this industry is manifold. This month saw the US release of the controversial Circumstance (winner of Sundance Audience Award 2011), a film exploring lesbian love in Iran, and director Maryam Keshavarz felt compelled to make a “goodbye” trip to the country as soon as the work was complete, on the clear understanding that she would become a target of the regime once it was released. The official trailer ends with “Let no love fall victim to circumstance. Freedom is a human right.” And circumstance is exactly what filmmakers must constantly overcome — in the choices that they make and the reality that ensues.

Award-winning director Jafar Panahi under house arrest since December 2010, with an imposed 20-year ban on making films, has bravely played with the limitations of this ban by collaborating on This Is Not A Film, a film poignantly showing the banality of Panahi’s life under house arrest. The film was smuggled out of Iran on a USB pen and screened at Cannes this year. The reels keep turning.