“Censorship kills cinema. Sometimes a little pressure gives filmmakers more energy to fight it. But strangulate them and they will die. That’s why many Iranian filmmakers are not able to make films there now,” said the Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf at the open forum ‘Censorship in Cinema’ at the Kochi International Film Festival in India.
According to The Hindu’s reporter, Mohsen Makhmalbaf explained to the audience that the censorship prevailing in Iran should not be mistaken as contributing to the wider global acceptance of Iranian movies. Rather, Makhmalbaf attributed it to simplicity, social concepts based on which they are being made, realistic treatment, its root in poetry, the constant search to find something new. One could find the same reasons in the Indian movie ‘Pather Panchali,’ he felt.
On 17 December 2012, the first open forum of the Kochi International Film Festival had ‘Censorship in cinema’ as the topic scheduled for discussion. The lively talk, however, touched upon everything from exile and freedom of expression to actor Shweta Menon’s pregnancy, reported The Hindu.
During the open forum, Mohsen Makhmalbaf compared the government censorship process in Iran with to two blind people judging the merit of a film. “Cinema should act as a mirror that will correct society,” he said.
“Anything that makes people think
is censored in Iran”
Five years in prison
Thrown behind the bars at the age of 17 for opposing the repressive regime of the Shah, Mohsen Makhmalbaf explained that his courage to stand up to dictatorship and injustice evolved during the five years he spent in prison during which he read about 2,000 books of all hues.
The director’s son Maysam, a filmmaker himself, also took part in the open forum. “Anything that makes people think is censored in Iran,” he said.
Filmmakers first had to get the synopsis of the film approved by the censors, and then the script. Even if these got through the censors, filmmakers could be asked to replace the director or actors with someone the administration preferred, explained Maysam who stepped into film direction through his docu-fiction ‘How Samira Made the Blackboard’.
“There are more than 80 [cinema] theatres in Tehran alone. But, there are strict censorship laws and only three types of films are screened in Iran. The first category is made as part of the propaganda for the government. The second is typically commercial and the third category, by independent film makers, is finding it difficult to triumph given the strict censorship rules,” said Maysam.
Exiled family of filmmakers
Mohsen Makhmalbaf and his family have been forbidden from entering their native country after the Presidential elections there in 2009, which the Opposition party in Iran had alleged were rigged.
Makhmalbaf’s younger daughter Hana had also made a film called ‘Green Days’ about the protests that sparked off the Arab Spring. While the director has been living in exile in Paris, his family, who are also filmmakers, are scattered in different parts of the world. “Most Iranian filmmakers are living outside the country for fear of arrest,” Mohsen Makhmalbaf said at the discussion.
Sajeevan Anthikad, director of ‘Prabhuvinte Makkal’, said while censorship was not as bad in India, certain topics such as religion or Gandhi were holy cows and could never be touched upon. He called for an end to all government censorship. “Instead, people should develop a democratic sensibility to tolerate criticism,” he said.
The Hindu – 18 December 2012:
Cinema must hold a mirror to society, says Iranian director Makhmalbaf
He was speaking at the open forum ‘Censorship in cinema’ at the Kochi International Film Festival.
The New Indian Express – 18 December 2012:
Censorship laws make the going hard: Maysam Makhmalbaf
“There are strict censorship laws and only three types of films are screened in Iran.” By Shibu B S
The Hindu – 16 December 2012:
Censorship kills cinema, says filmmaker Makhmalbaf
“Censorship kills cinema. Sometimes a little pressure gives filmmakers more energy to fight it. But strangulate them and they will die. That’s why many Iranian filmmakers are not able to make films there now,” he said. By M. P. Praveen