“Closed Curtain,” the Iranian film that made its debut at the Berlin Film Festival, is stirring up controversy.
Directed by Iranian dissidents Jafar Panahi, who is two years into a 20-year ban on filmmaking in Iran, and Kamboziya Partovi, “Closed Curtain” is a narrative feature that centers on people on the run from authorities who hide out in a villa.
The Guardian reports that Iranian authorities are protesting the festival’s decision to honor the film with the Silver Bear for Best Script.
In a statement, Javad Shamaqdari, Iran’s deputy culture minister and cinema chief, spoke out against the award.
“We believe that the Berlin fest organizers should correct their behavior,” Shamaqdari said. “Making these films is illegal, but, so far, the Islamic Republic has shown patience towards such illegal acts,” he continued.
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Panahi was imprisoned and subsequently put under house arrest due to his support of the opposition party during Iran’s 2009 presidential election. In addition to the filmmaking ban, Panahi is barred from giving interviews to foreign members of the press.
In 2011, Panahi released “This is Not a Film,” which was shot using an iPhone and a low-cost DV camera. The documentary chronicles his daily life as he waits to see whether or not his appeal has been approved.
A USB device that held the film was cleverly hidden inside of a cake and submitted to the Cannes Film Festival.
The film brought widespread attention to Panahi’s case, and celebrities such as Robert De Niro and Ang Lee publically expressed their support for the director. Other high-profile figures like Harvey Weinstein and Martin Scorsese signed an Amnesty International Petition that called for his release.
Despite the German government’s efforts to persuade the Iranian government to allow Panahi to attend the film’s Berlin premiere, the filmmaker was not given permission to exit the country.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Partovi was present to accept the award on Saturday night.
“It is impossible to stop a thinker and a poet. Their thoughts bear fruit everywhere,” he said in his acceptance speech.
In a printed statement, Panahi said that the film “uses shifting genres and stories within stories to highlight why filmmaking is a necessity in a filmmaker’s life: It is the imperative need to show the reality of the world we live in.”
During the festival, Panai said he isn’t sure if or how those involved with the film will be reprimanded.
“We don’t know what this will lead to,” he said. “We are very glad that Jafar had the opportunity to come through with this project. ... Nothing has happened up to now, but we don’t know what the future holds in store for us.”