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Iran’s Top Film Director Says No More Forced Hijab In Pictures

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Prominent Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi says he will not produce any films in Iran until the ban on showing women without headscarves is lifted, as people demand.

For decades, Iranian filmmakers, including Farhadi, have been compelled to depict female characters with their hair covered by a headscarf or a tightly fitted hat, along with loose-fitting clothing that conceals the neck, arms, and legs.

Farhadi says he will not cover women’s hair in his films “systematically” as long as compulsory hijab rules are in place and Iranians defy the ban. “I will not make films in Iran as long as I am not free from this constraint,” he told Le Monde in an interview conducted last month on the sidelines of Les Arcs Film Festival in France where he chaired the jury.

The rule applies even when the characters are in places where they are supposed to have complete privacy in the story, such as their bedrooms. Filmmakers and screenwriters often must go to great lengths to avoid scenes where the appearance of the female characters in anything less than acceptable to the authorities may result in the scene being censored in pre-screening vetting by officials appointed to review films according to religious and political guidelines. Films can also lose permission for public screening.

Farhadi also told Le Monde that Iranian filmmakers persevered in creating films for four decades despite heavy censorship and repression, but in the past year film production has dropped hugely. “I can’t work in these circumstances, either.”

Asghar Farhadi receiving the Cannes Film Festival award. July 18, 2021

The director of the Academy Award winning “A Separation” and “The Salesman”, who had always insisted on staying in Iran, was criticized for often avoiding comments on political issues but like many of his colleagues, he openly supported the Woman, Life, Freedom Movement in 2022.

“I’m restless and disgusted since reading the news, this time with myself,” he wrote in an Instagram post he addressed to Mahsa Amini who fell into a coma after receiving a head injury during her arrest by the morality police in September 2022 for what they considered as “inadequate hijab”.

“Faced with this boundless cruelty, we pretend we are sleeping. We are partners in this crime,” he wrote.

In another post he urged all artists, filmmakers, intellectuals, and rights activists around the world to show solidarity with Iranian men and women by making videos, writing articles or any other way they could.

Later in April, he told Variety Magazine that he was not totally sure he would be allowed to leave the country again if he went back to Iran, as he planned to do at the time before starting to shoot his new film in the US.

“I’m not officially aware of being banned from working in Iran, but I have heard it unofficially. Moreover, I know that I’m officially banned from any business transactions. And again, unofficially, I have heard that I am banned from leaving Iran,” he said.

Farhadi’s passport was taken from him upon returning to Iran two years after winning his Academy Award for best foreign film in 2011. He was also interrogated at the airport and called in by intelligence agencies.

Many Iranian actors and other artists who publicly supported the Mahsa movement and fused to wear hijab were banned from working by the authorities. Some, like Taraneh Alidoosti who appeared in Farhadi’s Separation, and Katayoun Riahi were arrested and prosecuted for hijab rebellion.