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Iran mulling Venice film fest boycott over EU sanctions

July 30, 2012


Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (R) is seen in Nicosia June 26, 2012. Iran urged the European Union to reconsider an embargo on Iranian oil that comes into effect on July 1, saying it wanted engagement and not confrontation with the bloc.–Photo by Reuters

TEHRAN: Iran is thinking of boycotting next month's Venice international film festival because of EU sanctions hitting its oil-dependent economy, a culture ministry official in charge of supervising the country's cinema industry was quoted.

“Considering that the EU has imposed the strongest inhumane and illegal sanctions against Iran, we are naturally thinking of boycotting the Venice film festival,” the official, Alireza Sajjadpur, said in a report published in the Tehran Times newspaper.

“We are currently assessing the situation,” he said, adding that Iranian films were the “highlight” of Western festivals, according to the newspaper report picked up from the ISNA news agency.

There are no Iranian movies selected to compete in the main section vying for Venice's Golden Lion award (though a US director of Iranian descent, Ramin Bahrani, is on the list with his “At Any Price”.)

The one Iranian film chosen for the official line-up in Italy, in the out-of-competition Horizon section, is “The Paternal House” by director Kianoush Ayari.

But Sajjadpur said that movie – which depicts problems faced by women in Iran in a story about a patriachal family – would not have permission from Tehran to be screened unless it undergoes “corrections”.

“I hope the report isn't true” that it will be shown in Venice as is, he said.

Iran's regime reserves the right to decide whether films from the country can be shown or not, depending on how they portray life and characters under strict Islamic rule.

A film by Jafar Panahi, a celebrated Iranian director awaiting the start of a six-year prison sentence for “propaganda against the regime”, had his latest production, “This is not a Film” smuggled out in a USB flash drive hidden in a cake to be screened in last year's Cannes film festival.

The European Union in July drastically ramped up sanctions imposed on Iran over its disputed nuclear programme by enforcing an embargo on Iranian oil imports.

The Venice film festival runs from August 29 to September 8 and features movies from around the world.