Iran's minister of culture and Islamic guidance has threatened filmmakers and actors with a work ban if they criticize Islamic Republic entities and officials.
Iran’s Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib had also warned government’s critics on Thursday against writing statements and open letters to criticize the current situation in the country.
In a program aired by the state broadcaster (IRIB) Saturday evening, the minister of culture Mohammad-Mehdi Esmaili said Iranian films cannot participate in foreign film festivals if they are not authorized to be shown in Iran.
Films, music and books go through a rigorous censorship process in Iran and often have to change and re-write segments to be accepted by religious-political censors.
“Everything has been carefully considered and there is no room for leniency,” Esmaili said, adding that “the future of those who act against our national interests, speak against the Iranian people, and take advantage of the cruel sanctions against the Iranian people, is clear.”
The minister also accused the government of former President Hassan Rouhani of too much leniency. “The former president said we should not force people to go to heaven but in an Islamic system we have the duty to work for people’s benefit.”
Esmaili defended the ban on filmmakers and actors and insisted that it was not against the law. Authorities will continue doing the same and will not surrender to media pressure or the artists’ protests, he stressed.
The ministry recently suspended Leila’s Brothers, a film by renowned filmmaker Saeed Roustayi (also spelled as Roustaee), due to its unauthorized participation in the Cannes Film Festival.
“I hope my film will be allowed to be shown in Iran, but I will not surrender to censorship unlike in the case of Just 6.5,” Roustayi told Iran International on the sidelines of the festival. “Censorship ruined that film. This time I prefer my film is banned rather than censored [for viewers in Iran].”
Just 6.5 (2019) was nominated for the César Award for Best Foreign Film in 2021 while Leila's Brothers (2022) was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
Informed sources told Iran International earlier this week that that the intelligence ministry and the ministry of Islamic guidance have threatened more than 100 film industry figures to withdraw their signatures from a May statement titled “Lay Down your Gun” or be banned from working.
The statement by filmmakers had urged military and security forces not to use force protesters during anti-government demonstrations.
Dissident filmmakers Mostafa Aleahmad and Mohammad Rasoulof who had prepared the statement were arrested and others were pressured to revoke their signatures soon after it was issued. Award-winning film director Jafar Panahi was sent to Evin prison to serve a previous six-year sentence after being arrested for protesting the detention of Aleahmad and Rasoulofoutside Tehran’s Evin Prison.
Informed sources have told Iran international that next week authorities will release a list of artists who are banned from work. Authorities in the past few weeks have informed ten documentary filmmakers of a ban on leaving Iran and several actors and filmmakers including actress Taraneh Alidoosti, film editor and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Haideh Safiyari, actor Navid Mohammadzadeh, Iranian-born Afghan actress Fereshteh Hosseini, and Saeed Roustayi have reportedly been banned from working.
“We haven’t committed any crimes and there has been no trial. What are you banning us from?” Alidoosti wrote in an Instagram post on August 17.