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Filmmaker Speaks Out

27 Jun 2009 22:0319 Comments
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Bahman Farmanara: We cannot remain silent

By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles | 27 June 2009

In a short open letter to the Iranian people, Bahman Farmanara, the distinguished Iranian movie director whose work has won many prestigious awards, declared that the nation cannot be silent and must continue protesting the rigged presidential election.

One of Farmanara's best films was Prince Ehtjab in 1974, which was about a Qajar prince who had lost all power and wealth. The Qajar dynasty ruled Iran from 1794-1925; it was overthrown by Reza Shah who founded the Pahlavi dynasty. In many ways the movie was also about the Pahlavi dynasty, which had become corrupt and overthrown by the 1979 Iranian revolution.

After the Revolution, Farmanara, a graduate of the University of Southern California, left Iran. He first moved to Canada, and then to Los Angeles, where he enjoyed a successful career in the film industry, working with such giants as Oliver Stone (Talk Radio), Martin Scorcese (The Last Temptation of Christ), and Paul Newman (The Glass Menagerie). He then returned to Iran and produced several films, among them Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine and A House Built on Water, both of which earned him many awards and accolades. Both were banned in Iran for an extend period of time. At one point, however, a heavily censored version of Smell of Camphor was screened in the Islamic Republic.

Here is his letter:

Greetings to all my friends:

I am an Iranian who believes in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. But, nowhere in the Constitution am I asked to blindly accept all the lies [by the officials]. If I have so far not signed any petition or letter by my colleagues [to protest the rigged election], it is because I wish to be solely responsible for what I say. The present short note is for this reason.

If we [Iranians] attend the banquet of silence to which we have been invited [by the Iranian government], the result will not only be suffocation and loss of our voices, but also eternal shame for ignoring the bloody murder of Neda [Agha Soltan, the 27-year-old Iranian woman killed by thugs in Tehran, who has become an icon of the struggle]. I believe in what [Julius] Caesar said [in William Shakespeare's play] that, "a coward dies a thousand times, but the valiant tastes death but once." Hence, it is with hope for freedom and justice for all Iranians that I take this perilous step [of writing the note].

Farmanara then states that he is aware of the possible consequences for what he is doing:

It is no longer important whether I will ever make another movie. But it is important that I do not dance to the official tune, for it is not honorable of me to do so at the age of 68. I am neither a hero, nor do I want to be one. I also do not know how long my feeble and worn out body can endure jail, before I sign anything I am dictated to [a reference to bogus, under torture, "confessions" that the interrogators extract from political prisoners].

I would like to end this note with a part of a poem by the esteemed poet Simin Behbahani [a contemporary Iranian female poet], which was written in 1974,

When silver rules gold becomes God

When lie is the judge of any case

When the air, the air that we breathe, the air that sustains life

Becomes the death blanket over hundreds of voices [of protest]

[it is then that] one cannot remain silent

I live for the day that freedom and social justice become the law of our beloved pure Iran, so as we can sing together the hymn, "Oh, Iran" [a patriotic hymn sung by Iranians that praises the homeland], with the belief in the depth of our hearts that Iran is a truly blessed land.

Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau

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19 Comments

"Moment" (Iran's present mad moment, inspired this "Moment"!


The world at the moment is a moment away from it's last moment unless we seize this moment to postpone the moment that is coming to destroy the moment in the not far away moment that could be our last moment, so think how soon this moment could be...if we don't take a moment to think about how soon, the moment could be, that's our last "Moment"!


PS. This was written in a "Moment"!

v.gerrard / June 27, 2009 7:07 PM

The death of Iran is nigh...heed all about it...if you don't want Iran to die...followed on close by...the murder of the "World"!

v.gerrard / June 27, 2009 7:14 PM

Thank you Mr. Farmanara for speaking out for your country. I only hope for your safety and that your words will inspire others to also speak out for freedom and be the end to this regime!

Colleen / June 27, 2009 7:52 PM

That was moving. Iranians are a strong people.

Heidi / June 27, 2009 8:07 PM

Thank you sir for your bravery. I am following this this revolution very closely and praying.

Margie / June 27, 2009 8:39 PM

Keep fighting!!


Artists must beak their silence and be the voices of freedom.

Jim Paredes / June 27, 2009 8:48 PM

Dearest Bahman,


Thank you for standing up to be counted.


I join you and millions expressing our people's hope and desire for freedom, peace, and tranquillity.

Ali Houshyar / June 27, 2009 9:26 PM

Dearest Bahman Farmanara,


I am not Persian, nor am I Muslim, yet I feel compelled to stand in solidarity with you and those whose voices have been silenced by the Iranian regime. You are an inspiration to all humankind, and You efforts will not be in vain. Stay strong and you will be in my heart!


Jennifer Shultz

Jennifer / June 27, 2009 9:28 PM

Incredible, moving words. I hope you inspire the people of Iran to fight on.

missy wallace / June 27, 2009 9:29 PM

It is easy for those of us who are thousands of miles away from Iran to say keep fighting to the people of Iran. We are not in the line of fire nor ready victims for the goons who would beat us with their clubs & fists. We all value life & I don't want to see another innocent Iranian killed. Therefore, I am of the belief that the only way the people of Iran can achieve their goals is to boycott. Boycott purchasing goods, boycott purchasing petrol, boycott business by staying home from work. Want to get your message across to the leaders of Iran? Hurt them financially. Do it for your cause & do it in memory of Neda. My prayers & thoughts are with all of you.

Johanna / June 28, 2009 12:18 AM

Your bravery,compassion and commitment to justice is an inspiration for all. I am neither Iranian nor Muslim, but I support Iranians in their search for justice in their land.


I hope you do not have to pay the price, as so many others have done, for speaking out freely, but regimes fear words. Words are powerful, and are still read long after regimes are memory's fallen leaves.


Mr Bahman Farmanara, on behalf of those who can't freely do so, I thank you.

Sandra Bekin / June 28, 2009 12:29 AM

Thank you for taking a stand to speak out against the injustice committed by the Iranian government against its own people. The world is watching.

mellat / June 28, 2009 1:34 AM

My hope is that the democratic countries of the world will finally pull together and exact political/trade pressure that will damage the regime. This is a very proud time the Iranians people and I have full confidence that the movement will gather the momentum it needs to succeed. Unfortunately it seems-with this administration, to be more fashionable to bankrupt America than stick to our values, and support positive historic changes in the middle east.

Mike / June 28, 2009 2:51 AM

It's even simpler than 'boycott' - Iran imports almost half of its fuel from other countries - cut the fuel supply and the motorbikes of terror stand still!

drusus / June 28, 2009 6:30 AM

Mr. Farmanara: you "speaks out" against the regime that kills its own people -- that won't allow your films to be played as is -- yet you believe in its Constitution? Odd that your best film was made during the Pahlavi days, yet you believe in the Constitution that supports the bloodiest "rule of law" -- if we can call it that -- that Iran has seen in 2 centuries. Pats on the back for "speaking up", but I suspect you were more vocal in 1979.


How about SHOUTING, "I made a mistake by supporting this cursed regime because its very constitution CAN'T provide justice -- because its constitution is designed for a single religion." Any advocate of human rights understands that separation of mosque and state is essential for TRUTH, JUSTICE, and even ART to prosper.


Iranians are also Christians, Jews, Baha'is, Zorastrians, seekers, non-believers and others. Mr. Farmanara apparently disregards their right to a just constitution.

Shahriar / June 28, 2009 7:01 AM

It is important for us all to speak out in face of injustice. Thanks!

Phil / June 28, 2009 8:56 AM

Thank you Bahman Farmanara. As an American at the age of fourteen I lived in Iran as the revolution was just beginning. There as guests of the Shah I enjoyed a city that was what I imagined Paris must be like. The grace and the beauty of the Iranian people were my lesson in life of how to be kind to others. But then I learned that my host, the Shah was silencing his people, those who dare ask what he was doing. It was a deception that hurt terribly. The Shah was bringing so many good things and at the same try smashing dissent. They would simply dissappear as victims of the Savak (secret police). I had so quickly fallen in love and then felt betrayed by the Shah and his beautiful Farah. His people so beautiful and eloquent. I often wondered why he could not trust his people more, but there was no mechanism for a dynasty to be removed other than revolution. Iran's struggle is emblematic for the next stages of democracy in it's region. What was imposed democracy in Iraq can be a genuine democracy chosen by the people. I would like to read the Islamic Constitution for I have no idea what it says.

My heart cries for the pain of the Persian peoples but sing with the Joy of hope at the same time. Befarmaed Junum-

James Funderburk / June 28, 2009 8:58 AM

I do not know what the Islamic Constitution says or if it reflects the voices of the 79 revolution. This is important as Bahman Farmanara seems to endorse it, or is it a ruse that he endorses it and he is only pulling out that it does not command him to believe lies.

James Funderburk / June 28, 2009 9:21 AM

Dear Editor, this was a letter I sent to Press TV on the 21/06/09.


Please Editor, Press TV,


Press TV should now show & tell the truth, the whole truth, & nothing but the truth. Your people of all persuasions deserve that at least. Remember it's your fellowmen, not American's or British that is doing this harm to your country, but your own "Autocracy". I am from Ireland & my country has seen it's fair share of innocent people been killed, but the killing of the beautiful people of Iran makes me cry, because it's much more murderous in one day than we'd have in a year. Please I ask you, for your own people, "Wake up" before it is too late, please". After all, your blood is the same colour as your country men & women. Please!


Are your people not worth more than that piece of printing ink in your news's abridged story's...that your government demands. I know you the editor, the journalist's the photographer's the computer editor's the men, women, & especially those of you who may have children. I can hear the chanting of your people from here, in distress, terrible distress, wailing "Allah is Great" & not kind words about your ", Ayatollah" but why should he have the power to tear your country apart & destroy your spirit. Is it worth it? That you will even though you might not report it, be burying thousand's of your countrymen & for what. A power on "Earth" of one man when the "God above is crying" for your beautiful people. I did write into your site but that was at the start, because like westerner's we like to see freedom, we in Ireland had to fight for ours, and we' re now in peace with each other (North & South) because we compromised. But it had to be a fair compromise, not one that was cheating the other side. So I ask you, "Press TV" is tomorrow night another night you want to hear your people wailing, or would you not prefer the lovelier Iran? A happier Iran? A peaceful Iran?


You all deserve it in the name of your God "Praise be to Allah". In 100 years time, all alive today will be dead & hopefully with our God...but do we want our future generation's to be warring & dieing before their time, do you want your generation's to be still remembering these day & the awful waste of life over a vote, an election that was unfair. That should be no reason to destroy yourselves, the entire world can see the truth so why hide it from the most important people in the world? Your people, your "Beautiful People". Now it's up to you, a free Iran or a warring Iran. The "Choice is yours"........."Yours Alone". I believe in my God & I think I know the choice he would pick. "Cheers & Peace to Iran".


Bail o Dhia ort (an Irish saying in Irish & English The blessing of God on you.


& just one more Irish Quote, I'd like you to have, it is,


May the Lord keep you in His hand and never close His fist too tight. (Don't please, let him get that angry).

No, like their leading Godless cleric's, they wouldn't/didn't listen either!

v.gerrard / June 28, 2009 5:24 PM