TEHRAN – Director of the Cinema Organization of Iran (COI) Hojjatollah Ayyubi warned director of the Berlin International Film Festival Dieter Kosslick against his political remarks on Iran prior to a screening of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s “Taxi” at the festival.
In an open letter published on Saturday, Ayyubi wrote, "The Berlin festival has been held with screening of films by great Iranian cineastes over the past years.”
"[The] Berlin [festival] has turned into a familiar name for Iranian filmgoers: a place for showing films, a venue for dialogue, a dialogue the modern world desperately needs. A dialogue which, if it were to exist today, would prevent all of us from being engulfed in the current awful waves of misunderstandings,” he added.
"I regret that you wish to drive everybody in a taxi of new misunderstandings about the Iranian people by screening a film made by a director who has been banned by law from making films – nevertheless, he has done exactly that. I am delighted to announce that the director of ‘Taxi’ continues to drive in the fast lane of his life, freely enjoying all of its blessings,” he stated.
"… I, like many other lovers of cinema, hear the ominous sound of the footsteps of politics at the Berlin festival. I, like the rest of you, wanted Berlin to remain a refuge of culture and art, but it seems that someone preferred politics to art. The sound of politics can be heard, and the bricks you are laying course upon course will quickly build a new Berlin wall around your festival; a wall that could be much higher than the Great Wall of China. And politics leads to separation, which leads to the construction of Berlin Walls… whereas culture and cinema leads to the removal of walls and barriers.”
Last Friday, the Berlin International Film Festival premiered "Taxi”, the latest film by Panahi, who was banned from making films for 20 years by an Iranian court for a documentary he tried to make on the unrest following Iran’s 2009 presidential election, Reuters reported.
"Jafar never accepted his 20-year ban and tried to do his work because he cannot make a living without making films, and by accident we got this film here, perhaps by taxi?” Kosslick said to reporters on the red carpet.
"Jafar is in a much better mood as a person because he is the cab driver in the film and he is a comical cabdriver with a great sense of humor and this is good because three years ago he was depressed,” he stated.
Panahi’s film is one of 19 vying for the Berlin festival’s annual Golden Bear prize.