Iranian Artists Boycott Fajr Film Festival in Protest
Iran’s Fajr Film Festival is held annually in the month of February to coincide with the anniversary of the 1979 revolution. It is Iran’s most significant film festival, in which Iranian film and theater artists showcase their work and are celebrated as one of the premier cinemas of the world. The Fajr Film Festival often attracts the best and the brightest of Iran’s artists, who have successfully created a thriving cinema despite harsh restrictions and censorship from the state’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, also known as Ershad.
Iranian artists must go through an arduous process of checks and permissions to have their films approved by officials. Even projects that are approved for filming and are screened can be subject to removal by the whims of the Ministry, adding significant challenges for any Iranian filmmaker. These filmmakers and artists have continuously pushed the boundaries and unjust limitations placed on them and participated in the film festival as a way to publicize their work and be deservedly celebrated. However, this year’s festival has drawn particular criticism that converges various threads of discontent such as artistic censorship, the failures of the state to address the grievances of the Iranian populace, repression of protests, and the downing of a civilian flight.
Many prominent Iranian celebrities, such as directors Rakhshan Bantietemaad and Masoud Kimiai, as well as actors such as Taraneh Alidoosti and Peyman Maadi, have spoken out in support of their countrymen’s protests and withdrawn their participation in the Festival in respect to the 176 lives lost in the plane downing, the attempt to coverup the tragedy, and a country full of people mourning and rightfully angry at their officials.
Also disconcerting were early reports that these artists faced quick backlash from Iranian hardliners, and reports that both Banietemaad and Alidoosti were briefly detained by officials. It is absolutely the right of Iranians to protest against the state and publicly mourn such a tragedy. It is also the right of these artists to share their support and boycott festivals as they see fit. It is incumbent upon the Iranian government to heed the protests of its citizens and uphold human rights.