Censors at Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance often order directors to make changes to their films – or ban the films outright. In this second article in our series on censorship, award-winning director Abdolreza Kahani reveals techniques he and other filmmakers use to sidestep the restrictions.
If you missed the first article of this two-part series, you can catch up here: “An
Iranian film director on the country’s censorship laws (1/2)”
Creative ways to bypass censorship
“Over the last four decades, Iranian directors have learned to get around censorship by coming up with creative ways to show actions and activities that are banned.
I remember one film in which a young man walked toward his sweetheart to kiss her. They were outside and the camera rotated around them so that when he reached her the couple was hidden by a tree. All you saw was his arms closing – presumably around her. You’re not supposed to show men and women touching – even husband and wife. So if you want to show a couple fighting you have the actors break plates and throw things instead of putting their hands on each other. And we developed special conventions for taboo topics like rape. It was interesting for non-Iranian audiences at international film festivals – they couldn’t believe we would show a rape just by filming a closing door.
But after nearly 40 years we’re just repeating the same metaphors for forbidden scenes. It’s not creative anymore. It’s not cool. We’re once again faced with the reality that censorship is a huge obstacle for showing the simplest human interactions in Iran.”
Hoping they won’t notice
“When the censors told me to modify my 2012 film “By No Reason” (“Sans Raison”) – to make the religious woman character into a “nice person” by changing dialogue and cutting sequences – I told them, “OK, I’ll make the changes.” I gave the review board the new edit on a DVD, and they cleared it. I asked them to give me back the DVD because I needed to copy the modifications onto the original version. But when I left the office, I broke the DVD and we screened the original version in cinemas. They never noticed what I’d done – fortunately. I took the risk because I wanted people to watch the film I really made.”
Initially published on France24 on 08/18/2017
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