Fest looks to bring Iranian director to event

The 30th Vancouver Film Festival, which kicks off today, is working to bring banned Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof to the event as part of its focus on Iranian film.

It also protested last week’s arrest of six Iranian filmmakers — Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Katayoun Shahabi, Hadi Afarideh, Nasser Saffarian, Shahnama Bazdar and Mohsen Shahrnazdar — on charges of collaborating with BBC News, forbidden in Iran, and depicting the country in an unflattering light.

Mirtahmasb’s Cannes player “This Is Not a Film,” co-directed with Jafar Panahi and concerning Panahi’s life under house arrest, unspools at the fest on Oct. 8 and 13. Panahi is appealing his six-year jail sentence and 20-year ban on filmmaking for his anti-government stance.

Fest will feature discussions about “This Is Not a Film,” shot on an iPhone and smuggled out of the country, as well as five other Iranian films.

Meanwhile, fest execs hope to get a visa for director Rasoulof to travel to Vancouver. Rasoulof was also sentenced last year to a six-year prison term and a 20-year filmmaking ban but was released on bail and is now in France.

“He is in a very politically sensitive position, and this turn of events with the arrest of the six filmmakers really puts him in jeopardy,” said fest director Alan Franey. “It would be very unwise for him to go back to Iran now.

“Iranian cinema is a big part of what we do every year,” Franey added, partly because Vancouver has a large Iranian community. “We have a very informed and interested audience here — Vancouver cinephiles as a whole are quite aware of the richness of Iranian films, and we’ve had great success with them in the past.”

Rasoulof’s new film, “Good Bye,” ironically, the story of a lawyer in Tehran trying to secure a visa to leave the country, won for best director in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard.

The film’s star, Leyla Zareh, lives in Vancouver and attended the fest’s media conference a few weeks ago as a representative of the film.

This year, 375 films from 75 countries will unspool at the fest, which kicks off with Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In” and closes Oct. 14 with “The Kid With a Bike” by Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

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