Iran’s government may support Russia’s of Ukraine, but the bulk of the country’s film community is outraged by the war — and some more openly than others.
Prominent Iranian actor Hamid Farokhnezhad, best known internationally for starring in Asghar Farhadi’s “Fireworks,” has posted a video widely circulated on social media in which he denounces “the brutal attack of Russia against Ukraine.”
Farokhnezhad (pictured above), in protest against the Russian invasion, expressed his wish in the video to return the best actor statuette he received from the Moscow Film Festival in 2005 for his role in anti-war drama “Big Drum Under Left Foot,” directed by Kazem Ma’asoumi.
As Iranian multi-hyphenate Babak Karimi, speaking from Tehran, puts it, “Iran has experienced eight years of war with Iraq, which had similarities to the war in Ukraine.”
“The memory of war is very much alive here,” he notes. “So it’s obvious that everyone is saying: ‘Here we go [again], this is going to last for years.'” Karimi, who is an actor, film editor and academic, won the Berlin Silver Bear in 2011 for playing the judge in Oscar-winning “A Separation,” and is a regular in Farhadi’s films.
“There are some film personalities that are close to the government who support the war as a political stance, while from a human standpoint they are against it,” says Karimi.
However, the vast majority of those in film circles “are fully against the war,” as is the case for Iran’s population at large. “Everybody in Iran is worried, and the world of culture and cinema especially so,” Karimi adds.
Iran and Russia are strategic allies and the country abstained from voting during the March 2 United Nations General Assembly, which overwhelmingly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the current war has particularly sensitive repercussions for Iranians, since there is a fear that it could pose a sudden complication to a nearly completed deal to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran that would lift economic sanctions in Iran.
According to multiple press reports, there are concerns that Russia may now balk and scupper the agreement because the removal of sanctions against Iran would allow millions of barrels of Iranian oil to return to the global market. This, in turn, would give Russia less leverage as a major oil and gas supplier to the world.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered a ban on Russian oil imports to retaliate against the invasion of Ukraine.
Karimi, however, is confident that the nuclear deal will go through.
“Wars always have plenty of repercussions,” he says. But lots of things between the West and Russia were decided “before this war even started,” Karimi adds, including a closure to Iran’s nuclear deal.
On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that the deal with Iran is in the final stretch, with only a few outstanding issues. Price called on all parties, including Russia, to focus on resolving them.