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“Iranian women use images as a weapon of combat”: cinema, vector of freedom


The ongoing revolution in Iran began a long time ago on the screens. A powerful soft power that allows female directors and actresses to make their voices heard.

Making cinema in Iran is an obstacle course, with three possible routes: laying down arms to comply with the dictates of the censorship committees;

become a clever strategist to find your voice without offending the regime;

or attack the enemy head-on, risking his freedom.

It is this last option that Jafar Panahi chose who, after a first conviction in 2010, is currently serving a six-year prison sentence in his country.

In question: his dissident films made under the ayatollahs' beard.


No Bear,

currently in theaters, the 62-year-old filmmaker portrays himself in his own role: from his hiding place in a village in Iran, he connects to a videoconference application to direct his new film shot in Turkey.

His actress Mina Kavani remembers.

"Jafar's passion and resilience carried us through, but the situation reignited my anger: like Jafar, I too am stuck, but out of the country."

The actress was indeed forced into exile for good in 2015, after filming

Red Rose,

by her compatriot Sepideh Farsi, in Greece.

In video, Golshifteh Farahani sings with the group Coldplay the anthem of the Iranian revolution

Exile in the name of freedom

For Iranian women in cinema, exile has long been necessary in order to avoid prison or beatings.

By participating in critical films, by revealing their bodies or their hair on screen or in promotion (as was the case with Golshifteh Farahani), they broke the rules.

As women, we are not given the freedom to dispose of our bodies and our lives.

Mina Kavani, Franco-Iranian actress

Read alsoGolshifteh Farahani: “I remain vigilant, because the danger can come from anywhere”

“I obtained the status of political refugee after

Red Rose


says Mina Kavani, now nationalized French.

“The film contained the epitome of everything that the Islamic Republic condemns: an out-of-wedlock love story between a young revolutionary and an older man, raw dialogue, a reflection on power in Iran and scenes of 'love.

Some Iranian actors have filmed abroad, but the repercussions are often less for men.

It is more complicated for a woman to make films: we are not given the freedom to dispose of our bodies and our lives”, explains the actress who, despite being uprooted, has never regretted her choice.

“At the time of

Red Rose,

I was in the same state of mind as all those who revolt today in the streets of Tehran.

Angry, thirsty for freedom.

Very young, I knew anyway that one day I would have to choose between Iran and France in my career.

Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Cannes interpretation prize 2022 for

The Nights of Mashhad,

was also forced to flee reluctantly after being sentenced in absentia to ninety-nine lashes.

An intimate video of her and her boyfriend had been stolen and posted on the internet.

When Islamic law interferes in cinema

As for the directors, the same observation.

Banned from university since her imprisonment at 17 for having hidden a dissident, Sepideh Farsi moved to France in 1984. However, she made seven films in Iran, from 1997 to 2009. Under conditions.

Indeed, before being able to shoot on Persian soil, any filmmaker must submit his script to obtain authorization.

“I wasn't lying but I wasn't giving details.

I revolved around the truth, I wavered, ”explains the filmmaker who also recounts the difficulty of building his casting or his staging when Islamic law prohibits an unmarried man and woman from touching.

Breaking the rules is unthinkable: “There is always an informant on the set who is watching you”, explains the director who, in 2009, found the parade to bypass the controls.

Read alsoAsal Bagheri, Iranian researcher: "No one predicted that this uprising would be a women's movement"

In video, Iranian women resume the TikTok GRWM trend before going to demonstrate

Images, weapons of combat

Tehran without permission

was thus filmed entirely on the telephone, clandestinely.

“It allowed me to be on the move and close to people, but also to go relatively unnoticed, says Sepideh Farsi.

Iranians have an average of 1.5 telephones per person and film themselves with their family and friends all the time, like everywhere… It's physically impossible to control everyone”.

The price to pay for this offense to the authorities?

Exile again.

“I want to be able to create freely.

You have to be able to look in the mirror!

I tried to shoot in Iran so that Iranian audiences could also see my films.

But in the end, everyone, including those who had filming permits, were censored.

It makes no sense to try to comply with the demands of a theocratic and dictatorial regime.”

Iranian women use images as a combat weapon

Nathalie Coste-Cerdan, General Director of La Fémis

According to the director, the image of cinema and film actresses has improved a lot in Iran.

However, the younger generation still regularly chooses to move abroad.

For the past five years, two or three non-European students have joined La Fémis each year.

Among them already, two Iranian women.

“For them, the challenge is to obtain a platform in order to make the voices of Iranian women resonate in a cinema free from any obstacle”, explains Nathalie Coste-Cerdan, director general of the prestigious film school.

“They are very committed and use images as a combat weapon.

Faeze Karimpour, one of our graduates, is currently archiving footage of the revolt for her next film.

Read also Revolt in Iran: "It's a generation of more educated women, who have no intention of accepting the diktat of the veil"

Message of hope

These testimonies, Faeze also relays them on its social networks, a counter-power that has largely contributed to the democratization of images and the circulation of information in the country.

“Generation Z was born with new technologies, has studied and is more daring than us, observes Marjane Satrapi.

All become witnesses to reality, image carriers.”

Exiled since the release of her comic strip


in 2000, then the film of the same name (2007), the artist and director knew the risks.

But making his voice heard, breaking down prejudices and opening a window on the reality of his country were a necessity.

I understood that cinema was the most beautiful machine for creating empathy

Marjane Satrapi, artist and director

“For many, Iran was

Never without my daughter:

dirty people, cockroaches in the rice, chadors and bearded men.



restored my truth which, of course, is not absolute, but represents a point of view from within.

Not only did silence make me an accomplice, but I also understood that cinema was a

soft power,

the most beautiful machine for creating empathy there is", explains the one who, after having also drawn on her roots with

Poulet aux plums


believes to have covered the question.

For now at least.

“Talking about something else is another form of rebellion and emancipation.

A message of hope.

It is to say: "I am not condemned to carry the burden of this Iranian history which, if it is part of me, should not condition everything."

Today, at the time of the new revolution launched by women but supported by men, all generations combined, some artists still refuse exile.

Actress of The


Taraneh Alidoosti recently posted a message of support on Instagram, bareheaded: she says she will stay in Iran.

Whatever the cost.

Source: lefigaro

All life articles on 2022-12-06

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