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‘My Favourite Cake’ Directors Deliver Powerful Message From Iran After Authorities Banned Travel to Berlinale: ‘Like Parents Forbidden From Looking at Their Newborn Child’

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Directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeh were banned by Iranian authorities from traveling to this year’s Berlin Film Festival, where their film “My Favourite Cake” is premiering in competition.

At the film’s press conference on Friday morning, actors Lily Farhadpour and Esmail Mehrabi delivered a powerful message from the directors in the form of a letter as a photo of the two was propped up besides their empty seats.

“Today, a film which we have spent three years of our lives making will be shown here, unfortunately, without our presence. We feel like parents who are forbidden from even looking at their newborn child,” the directors said in the statement. “We have not been allowed today to enjoy watching the film with you, a discerning audience of this important film festival. We are sad and we are tired but we are not alone.”

“My Favourite Cake” stirred up controversy in Iran because it shows a woman not wearing the mandatory hijab, people drinking alcohol and dancing. In the letter, Moghaddam and Sanaeeh said they strived to show the true reality of Iranian women in the film.

“For many years, Iranian filmmakers have been making their films under very complicated rules. It means that red lines have to be obeyed, which when they’re crossed, can lead to years of not being allowed to work and it may lead to complicated court cases, a very difficult situation. It is a painful experience which we have experienced for many years,” the directors said. “In such a deplorable situation, we always continue to try to depict the reality of Iranian society in our films. It is a reality that is most often lost or obscured by layers of censorship. We have come to believe that it is no longer possible to tell the story of an Iranian woman while obeying such strict rules such as the mandatory hijab. Women for whom red lines prevent their true lives being shown, being shown as true human beings. We’ve decided to cross all these restrictive red lines and we accept the consequences of our decision.”

Added Farhadpour of not wearing a hijab in the film: “The Iranian audience, they often laugh when they see a woman go to bed wearing a hijab. It’s impossible that a woman misses her son in the film and they can’t hug and touch each other. 45 years, everybody just laughed at this, how could this be? Maybe now this is over. We would love to show the world the way it is.”

The directors’ statement concluded, “We hope that a day will come when we can show this film in our country and for the people of our country. That day will undoubtedly be another day for Iranian cinema and for the Iranian people, but we hope that this day is not too far away yet.”

Moghaddam and Sanaeeha have been banned from traveling by Iranian authorities and have had their passports confiscated, according to the Berlinale. They are also facing a court trial “in relation to their work as artists and filmmakers,” the fest said in a previous statement.

The directing duo was previously at Berlin in 2021 for their film “Ballad of a White Cow,” which premiered in competition.

“My Favourite Cake” follows 70-year-old Mahin, who lives alone “until she decides to break her solitary routine and revitalize her love life,” the film’s plot description states. “But as she opens up to romance, an unexpected encounter quickly evolves into an unforgettable evening.”

“My Favourite Cake” premieres at Berlin Film Festival on Friday. The fest kicked off on Thursday night and runs through Feb. 25.