Toon tiff: ‘Offside’ takes sides

Helmer, Der Tagesspiegel editor discuss issues

The latest Muslim cartoon-controversy — over a drawing depicting Iranian soccer players doubling as suicide bombers — took center stage Friday during the press confab for Iranian helmer Jafar Panahi’s Competish entry “Offside.”

Packed presser for the comedy about teenage girls who dress up as boys to try to watch a Tehran soccer match veered eventually toward the topic of the day.

Like the Danish cartoons satirizing Mohammed, this latest toon has sparked death threats, firebombings of the German embassy in Teheran, and an official protest from the Iranian embassy in Berlin.

Cartoon published a week ago in left-leaning Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel.

Issues pertinent to the film “Offside” — like women’s rights and censorship in Iran — were being amiably discussed when tensions surfaced.

The talent behind the pic sided with their Muslim brethren. “These cartoons are an insult and an affront to us. They should not be allowed,” said Panahi, when asked how he felt about the toon.

“It’s just a caricature. It’s actually the same type of humor as the movie,” replied Der Tegesspiegel Culture Editor Cristiane Peitz.

“Footballers are not terrorists, and we did not want to insult Iranians,” she added. Panahi then thanked her. “I admire your bravery for apologizing in a way.”

Peitz later said she was not apologizing, but just explaining that the satire was targeting Germany’s ongoing debate on whether the army should police stadiums during the upcoming World Cup.

As for the situation in Iran, Panahi said that despite censorship, movies like his do get made. You just have to learn a few tricks.

“I got it cleared with authorities by registering it as being by a different director and with a different screenplay. By the time they found out, it was too late to block the film.”

Panahi added that he hoped to be able to screen the film a month before the World Cup.

“Authorities in Teheran have not confirmed that this will happen,” he said, “but I don’t foresee any problems. I’m not prepared to make any changes to what you’ve seen.”

One journo, who described the pic as being about “genderapartheid,” put Panahi on the spot when he asked the helmer whether scooping the Golden Bear could improve chances for “Offisides” to get on Iran’s screens — and even prompt some social changes there.

“I respect the jury. I’m sure the jury should not look into these aspects,” Panahi said. “Please, let’s leave it to the jury to decide and leave politics aside.”

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