Helmer cancels invite since Iranian friend was denied

The New York Film Festival is becoming a hotbed of politics. Monday’s screening of Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki’s “The Man Without a Past” was to be followed by a one-on-one interview between Kaurismaki and Newsday critic John Anderson.

But Kaurismaki did not show up in solidarity with Iranian helmer Abbas Kiarostami, who last week was denied a visa by the U.S. consulate in Paris and could not attend the U.S. premiere of his NYFF entry, “Ten.”

NYFF director Richard Pena read aloud an email he had received from Kaurismaki. “Not with anger (which has never brought anything good),” began Kaurismaki’s letter, “but with deep sorrow, I received the news that Abbas Kiarostami, a friend and one of the world’s most peace-loving persons, is prevented from participating.”

Kaurismaki continued, “Under the circumstances, I, too, am forced to cancel by participation — for if the government of the United States does not want an Iranian, it will hardly have any use for a Finn. We do not even have the oil. But I would like to invite the American secretary of defense to see me in Finland. We could take a walk in the woods and pick mushrooms. That might calm him down.”

Kiarostami’s “Ten” was quietly picked up for domestic distribution by Gotham’s Zeitgeist whileKaurismaki’s pic snagged U.S. distribution via Sony Pictures Classics.

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