Sunday, November 13, 2005

Kazemi's son disrupts Montreal filmfest

Kazemi's son disrupts Montreal filmfest
Organizers condemned for accepting grant from Iran


Jeff Heinrich
CanWest News Service
Saturday, November 12, 2005
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MONTREAL - "Shame on you!" With those words, the son of a slain Canadian-Iranian photojournalist disrupted a Montreal film festival, condemning its organizers for accepting support from Iran.
Stephan Hachemi, whose mother, Zahra Kazemi, died after sustaining injuries while in custody in Iran, shouted the words from the back of a packed theatre of film festival invitees on Thursday night.
Organizers of the 8th annual Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire film festival were denounced by Mr. Hachemi for accepting a $2,000 grant from the government of Iran.
The grant was in support of a retrospective series of screenings of classic Iranian documentaries.
Mr. Hachemi, who was joined by two Iranian exiles, photographer Shahrzad Arshadi and filmmaker Masood Raouf, also objected to the fact that festival organizers had, in an opening speech and in the festival guide, thanked Iran and its Canadian embassy for their help.
Two years ago the same festival set up an exhibition of Ms. Kazemi's photos critical of the Iranian regime. Iran's Islamic government continues to censor artists and media.
"It's wrong," Mr. Hachemi said in an interview.
"The festival should not be compromising in any way with the government of Iran, especially in such a cheap and insulting way."
Festival programming director Bernard Boulad admitted that thanking Iran for its support was a touchy issue.
"With a country that's known to be quite repressive, it was a difficult thing to do," Mr. Boulad said yesterday. "We could have not mentioned it, but it's a question of diplomacy."
Holding the retrospective -- even with Iran's small financial contribution -- is better than not showing the films at all, he added.
"It's a way to make the country better known and give support to its filmmakers, who in any case are showing that the country is far from being a paradise," Mr. Boulad said.
The festival is screening 20 documentary films shot in Iran between 1962 and 2004. The retrospective was organized with the film magazine Hors Champ with financial contributions from the Conseil des arts de Montreal and Iran's Islamic Culture and Relations Organization.
In her speech opening the festival, festival executive director Marie-Anne Raulet acknowledged Iran's support.
As well, the festival's official program personally thanks the Iranian embassy's cultural attache in Ottawa, Fazel Larijani. He is the brother of Ali Ardashir Larijani, a conservative candidate in Iran's presidential elections last June.
© National Post 2005

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