Filmmaker Speaks Out
27 Jun 2009 22:03
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