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Behind the Curtain | Two Popular Movies Pulled from Screens after Protests

by ARASH KARAMI and NEGAR MORTAZAVI

04 Apr 2012 00:53Comments
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Ansar-e Hezbollah protesters outside of the Ministry of Culture building.

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Arash Karami is a frequent Tehran Bureau contributor. Negar Mortazavi is an Iranian journalist based in Washington, D.C. This is the first entry in their new blog, "Behind the Curtain."
[ blog ] Amid much controversy, two films have been pulled from a number of Iranian screens following harsh criticism. Although both movies were approved for production by the Ministry of Culture, Zendegi-e Khosusi (Private Life) and Gasht-e Ershad (Moral Police), which won a prize at the National Fajr Film Festival, came under attack from hardline clerics during Friday Prayers. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts, called the pictures "obscene" and "immoral." The paramilitary group Ansar-e Hezbollah also protested the films outside the Ministry of Culture building. Protesters carried banners that read "Families of the Martyrs, We are Ashamed" and set a 48-hour deadline for the screening of the movies to be suspended.

The Council of Iranian Filmmakers in a statement called the reaction to the movies a "tragic event" and a "novelty in Iranian cinema," adding that it is already very hard to obtain the mandatory permissions to produce a film inside the country. Specifically condemning the public protests, the Council declared that "the street is not the place for theoretical discussions on how to approach cinema."

Zendegi-e Khosusi, directed by Mohammad Hossein Farahbakhsh, plays on the subject of infidelity and tells the story of a once-religious man whose life is turned completely upside down. Gasht-e Ershad, directed by Saeed Soheili, is the story of three friends from low-income families who disguise themselves as morality police to make money. In response to the reactionary criticisms, Soheili said that "the year 1391 started with mourning for the Iranian cinema."

Social media users are speculating about whether the criticism of the two movies and their subsequent disappearance from cinemas was intended to eliminate competition for Golden Collars. A pro-government movie, Golden Collars is a retelling of the 2009 postelection protests that came to be known as the Green Movement, which encountered a brutal government crackdown. The movie portrays the demonstrations that unfolded after the disputed presidential vote as having been orchestrated by Western intelligence elements who sought to ignite a "civil war within the country." Facebook pages such as "Boycott Golden Collars," which has over 6,000 fans, have already popped up in protest against the movie.

Homepage: Image from "Zendegi-e Khosusi (Private Life)."

Copyright © 2012 Arash Karami and Negar Mortazavi

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