The Iranian film industry is one of the most respected in the world and wins dozens of international prizes each year. However, before they are released, films produced in Iran must go in front of the state censorship board. I spoke with Iranian director Abdolreza Kahani to find out the real deal about making movies in a theocracy.
I’m going to publish a two-part interview about censorship and Iranian cinema. Stay tuned for part two.
How does censorship work in Iran? In the past decade, at least 25 films have been banned in Iran, for a variety of reasons.
The film “Asabani Nistam” (“I’m not angry”, in English) by director Reza Dormishian was banned in 2014 because the story centres on the Green movement, an opposition movement that came to prominence in 2009. The films “Mehmoonie Kami” (“Kami’s Party”) by director Ali Ahmadzadeh and “Delighted” by Abdolreza Kahani, which are both about social tension in Iran, were also banned.
“To get authorisation to film in Iran, you need to go through several steps”
However, it’s not just overtly political films that are affected by censorship in Iran. In reality, censors scrutinise the whole industry– down to even the tiniest elements of a scene or screenplay. It’s a complex system, but director Abdolreza Kahani — who has won numerous international prizes — has dealt with it enough to know the ropes. Some of his films have been either partially or completely banned by the board.
“There are multiple steps to getting authorisation to film in Iran. First, you have to submit a complete screenplay to the examination commission at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. The members of this commission read the screenplay to check that there is nothing that is overtly problematic in it. If there is a “problem”, they request modifications to the text or just delete the section themselves. They can also decide to throw out the entire screenplay.
Once we get this initial authorisation, then we can start filming. When we finish up the filming, another commission examines the film to make sure that we respected all regulations and that what we made follows the screenplay that we submitted. They can censor different scenes or ask us to modify them. If it is approved, then the commission gives us the authorisation to screen it.
A lot of films are banned at this step, including my film, “Delighted” — even though the finished film was even more conservative than the screenplay that had been originally approved.”
Initially published on France24 on 08/18/2017
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