By Nigel Andrews
If you look at the history of Iranian culture, there is this allegorical, metaphorical language that is something unique, because the writer doesn’t want to tell you directly what is going on. You have to use other means to understand.
“The question of freedom for human beings is not unique to Iran. Even in nations where legally you can express yourself, there are still restrictions and limitations. But they are imposed culturally from inside the society; they are not so simple to recognise and deal with. But maybe if you are free to say everything, you lose that unique spur to say something particular in the first place.”
The banned and jail-sentenced Iranian director Jafar Panahi was a conspicuous absence in Berlin. Invited to serve on the jury but forbidden to leave Iran, he was represented in the jury room by an empty chair. A few months earlier, during pre-production on A Separation, Farhadi’s work had been halted, for several weeks, after he spoke out against his fellow artist’s detention.
Does Panahi’s fate serve as a warning to other filmmakers in Iran?
“You would think so but, actually, it’s the opposite,” says Farhadi. “Now film-makers are starting to talk about it. There’s a new daring and courage.”
Has this been encouraged by the Arab uprisings?
“There are so many similarities between nations in this area, in their religious and cultural heritage, that I think it will affect our country. But change and development have two sides. You’re looking forward or you’re looking back. I hope the people look forward to what they really want this time, not just act in the name of what they don’t want.”
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