„Zeny, Zivot, Svoboda“ 10th Prague Iranian film fest Starts in shadow of events in Iran
The 10th edition of Prague’s festival of Iranian film began on Wednesday. The festival is taking place in Prague from January 11th to 15th, launching with a gala opening at Kino Lucerna and continuing at Kino Svìtozor and Bio Oko. It will then move on to Kino Art in Brno from January 17th to 19th.
This time it is taking place in the shadow of four months of unprecedented protests and brutal repression in Iran – a situation which has greatly shaped this year’s festival. Just before it began, I spoke to founder Kaveh Daneshmand.
The focus of the festival is going to be on the main theme of all the uprisings that are happening at the moment, which is Women, Life, Freedom.
“We are bringing some of the films that can reflect on this very urgent topic. Of course it’s impossible to bring films that actually show what is happening in Iran, because it’s only four months that all the uprisings are happening.
“But we have put a theme together that can bring some of the most outstanding, but at the same time controversial and oppositional, films from Iran to the 10th edition of the festival.
"The poster for the 2023 festival was inspired by a picture from one of the recent demonstrations in Iran and is an expression of hatred towards the regime that uses fear and aggression as its last remaining tool of communication with the people of Iran,"organizers write.
Otherwise how are the events in Iran affecting the festival? For example, can guests come?
“Well, just last night we had one of our guests not allowed to get on the plane.
“So it’s affecting us dramatically.
Kaveh Daneshmand| Photo: Barbora Linková, Czech Radio
“Many of our guests were unable to come because there is a ban on travel of Iranian guests – the Iranian regime is taking a lot of Iranian artists hostage, not letting them out of the country, putting a travel ban on them, for instance.
“And of course when you’re trying to get in touch with directors and producers and sales agents, the internet is down.
“Communication is broken and it’s very hard to put the festival together with the very, very difficult communication between here and Iran now.”
NO BEARS Trailer | TIFF 2022
Video of No Bears Trailer | TIFF 2022. No Bears by Jafar Panahi is the opening film at the 10th edition of the festival.
Tell us about the opening film on Wednesday night.
“At the same time we are bringing several great guests, such as the director of Those Who Said No, which is a documentary focusing on the mass murders of the 1980s by the Iranian regime.
“And also many other great feature films, documentaries and short films.”
Do you know what’s happening, or going to happen, with cinema in Iran? It’s been so amazing for so many years in the face of adversity and with restrictions and so on. But now with everything that’s happening, I presume people aren’t making films and things are at a standstill?
“Yes, Iranian artists especially have been on some sort of an unwritten strike.
“Many Iranian independent filmmakers not only are not allowed to work – on top of that they are not willing to work at the moment.
“So there has been this nationwide strike on even holding performances: theatre performances, music performances, galleries.
“Nobody’s going to the cinema. Filmmakers are refusing to distribute their films in cinemas, and refusing to work with any governmental festivals or organisations which are organising events.
“So basically the arts scene in Iran is down now, but purely thanks to the initiative that the Iranian independent artists are taking.”
What’s happening in your country is absolutely terrible. People are being executed for protesting. How has it been for you watching all of that from this distance?
“It’s extremely painful.
“It’s hard to even wake up in the mornings, with the fear that this time when I open the news there is going to be yet another execution, there is going to be yet another person murdered, there is going to be yet another person imprisoned.
“And it’s been going on for four months.
“At the same time the news is filled with hope too.
“This is the first time that protests against the Iranian regime have been going on for so long, continuously, without a break.
“That is, I think, a great sign of how brave the Iranian people are.
“And because of that what we are doing – which I think is the most exceptional part of our festival this year – is planting a tree in tribute to the brave people of Iran and their fight against oppression.
“We are doing it on Saturday at noon [at Letná Plain], with Mrs. Susan Taslimi, who is one of the most legendary Iranian actresses and directors and has been in exile for 30 years, and with Mrs. Anna Šabatová, a signatory and spokesperson of Charter 77.
“They have both given us the honour to plant this tree, which is also going to be the first sign of Iran in the Czech Republic.