Several top international directors, including Alice Diop, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, and Cristian Mungiu are demanding that their films be pulled from Iran’s Fajr Film Festival after learning that they had been sent to the fest by a regional distributor without their permission.
Middle East distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment has confirmed they are trying to pull Diop’s “Saint Omer,” the Dardenne’s “Tori and Lokita,” and Mungiu’s “R.M.N.,” among other titles, from the Iranian fest which runs Feb. 1-11.
The government-run Fajr Film Festival, which is Iran’s top film event, has long had a section dedicated to international films that would otherwise not circulate in the country. This year, due to the wave of protests sparked in September by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was held in custody for allegedly wearing a loose hijab, fest organizers did not reveal the lineup in advance to avoid controversy.
The international directors found out by chance that their films were being shown at the Iranian fest and were outraged.
Front Row, which had provided the films to the Fajr fest through an agent, on Friday issued a statement saying that they have always screened films at the fest in hopes that “one day things would open up.”
“It’s always been a way to bridge cultures” the statement noted. But “Obviously, the situation has escalated,” it added.
“Our official position is very clear: We support the local and international film community and vocally support freedom of speech and human rights in all their shapes and forms. And for this [reason] we have officially demanded to pull all films that we represent in the MENA region from the Fajr Film Festival,” it said.