In a filmed video statement, which will be played before his film screens on Saturday (Oct. 15), Haghighi said: “I’m very sorry that I’m unable to be there with you tonight in the theatre. I was prevented by the Iranian authorities from boarding my flight to London on Friday. They gave me no reasonable explanation for this utterly rude behaviour.”
“So naturally on the way home from the airport, I was wondering about this and I was asking myself, why would the Iranian regime want to prevent me, a filmmaker, from leaving my own country? And I came up with two theories. The first one is this: a couple of weeks ago, I recorded an Instagram video in which I criticised Iran’s mandatory hijab laws and crackdown on the youth who are protesting it and so many other incidents of injustice in their lives. Perhaps the authorities thought that by keeping me here they could keep a closer eye on me, perhaps to threaten me and shut me up. Well, the very fact that I’m talking to you in this video right now kind of undermines that plan.”
“The second theory is that this is an exile in reverse,” he continued. “For them to make my own country and my own home an unbearable prison for me and to punish me by forcing me to stay in it as a prisoner. Well, let me tell you that being here in Tehran right now, is one of the greatest joys of my life. I cannot put into words the joy and the honor of being able to witness first-hand this great moment in history. And I would rather be here than anywhere else in the world right now. So if this is a punishment for what I’ve done, then by all means, bring it on. I hope you enjoy the film. I promise to be with you with my next film very soon. And let me end this with the three words that have given us Iranian so much joy and courage in the last few weeks: woman, life, freedom.”
A BFI London Film Festival spokesperson issued the following statement: “The Iranian filmmaker Mani Haghighi was due to travel to London today to support the U.K. premiere of his film Subtraction, which is screening tomorrow at the BFI London Film Festival, but has been prevented from boarding his flight to the U.K. He was turned away by authorities in Iran and has his passport confiscated. He has returned to his home in Tehran. We understand that no reason has been given to Mani Haghighi for the confiscation. The BFI London Film Festival supports Haghighi and all filmmakers in their freedom to make their films and present them around the world.”
“Earlier this week, in solidarity with imprisoned Iranian filmmakers and the brave women of Iran who are challenging for their freedom, BFI London Film Festival filmmakers and delegates joined Festival Director Tricia Tuttle in a moment of solidarity and reflection.”
Iranian authorities have been carrying on a major crackdown on the filmmaking community for several months. Iranian filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad were arrested in July for posting a statement on social media in the wake of a violent government arrest. A few days later, dissident Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi, known globally for prizewinning works such as “Offside” and “Taxi,” was also arrested after inquiring about his imprisoned peers.
Iran is currently in turmoil following the death of 22 year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody. Protests have been held across the country and around the world to denounce the oppression and violence brought by the Iranian regime. Amini, a Kurdish woman, died in custody on Sept. 16, three days after being arrested in Tehran because she allegedly breached the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women. Iranian authorities have reportedly been using lethal force against the protesters.