Following the twelfth presidential elections in the Islamic Republic, the history of Iran’s post Revolutionary state and political figures has become a hot topic and the government is engaged in glorifying its past actions. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is particularly investing in these films. However, the films are receiving a backlash from dissident film makers in Iran.
Iranian filmmaker Hossein Mahdavian was announced winner of than honorary award for his film The Midday Adventure at the eleventh Film Critics and Scriptwriters Award Ceremony held at Iran’s Centre for Children’s Intellectual Development on August 17.
However, prominent dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi refrained from handing Mahdavian the award and used the forum to demand greater opportunity for Iran’s independent cinema.
The focused state promotion of The Midday Adventure appears to be a direct attempt at providing a state approved view of the political conflicts of the 1980s in Iran when the state engaged in systematic elimination of opposition and alternative political groups – particularly in mass execution of political prisoners.
Panahi together with other veteran filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemad and Mohsen Amir Yousefi were on stage at the Film Critics ceremony to hand the Best Director award to Hamid Nematollah for his film, Subdued. When Panahi realized that he is also supposed to hand the honorary award to Mahdavian. Panahi refused and descended the podium despite entreaties from the organizers.
The Midday Adventure recounts the events of the summer of 1982 and the conflicts between the Islamic Republic state and the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO) political group. The film depicts the murder of Mousa Khiyabani, an MEK leader and portrays Reza Seifollahi Deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards intelligence branch at the time as the hero of the events.
The film which was made with money from the Revolutionary Guards, was awarded prizes for Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor.
“We do not want to dictate who should or should not make films;” Panahi said on stage; “However, in a situation where state films are being made with mega budgets with exclusive distribution rights in all top theatres, we are just asking for a few theatres where we too can screen our films.”
The Midday Adventure has been given the country’s top film award the Fajr Crystal Simorgh award for Best Film from both national and public views. The film was commended by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei who has asked those involved in making the film to also make a film about Assadollah Lajevardi, a controversial figure of the period with a notorious reputation for overseeing the torture and execution of numerous dissidents in 1980s Iran.
Ayatollah Khamenei’s request entails a complimentary view of Lajevardi’s service to the state. “God willing something will also be done about Mr. Lajevardi. He is a figure that deserves to be portrayed…before the Revolution we referred to him as “Man of Steel’” Khamenei was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile many Iranian diaspora groups are pushing for accountability for the mass execution of political prisoners in the 1980s and condemning support for contemporary political figures who had any involvement in them.
Jafar Panahi, a veteran filmmaker and winner of several national and international awards was arrested in the course of the protests against the 2009 presidential elections in Iran.
Millions of protesters came to the streets saying that the election was rigged and the state committed vote fraud in favour of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad post 2009 election.
Panahi was sentenced to six years in jail and banned from making films and travelling abroad. He was finally released on bail in 2010 after long periods on hunger strike protesting his sentence and treatment in jail.
While Panahi has managed to make low budget films, he is not permitted to screen his films in Iran and is practically blacklisted from opportunities open to filmmakers in the country. Panahi’s 2015 film Taxi won the Berlinale’s Golden Bear Award.