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IRAN: Satellite dishes are illegal but oh-so-popular

August 1, 2008 |  8:37 am

Ali

Don't expect Iran's clerical leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to endorse the documentary "Head Wind," even though one scene briefly shows his visage.

In fact, the rulers in Tehran have banned "Head Wind," acclaimed director Mohammad Rasoulof's funny/sad/chilling look at how Khamenei and his government are trying to seal off Iran from the rest of the world by banning satellite dishes, western movies and music videos, and other "immoral" content.

"Head Wind" is -- slowly -- finding an audience in America, first at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York this spring and now at the Traverse City (Mich.) Film Festival, where it was shown this week to amazement and applause. (The festival's guiding spirit is documentarian/contrarian Michael Moore).

Rasoulof follows Iranians who make an illegal -- but lucrative -- living installing satellite dishes. His camera visits an isolated village that gets news and entertainment from the outside world thanks to a dish and a government-built repeating tower (meant to allow broadcast of Islamic programming).

And then there are clandestine dubbers and sub-titlers who take movies and translate them into Persian, all against the law.

Iranian police make occasional rooftop raids to collect and smash dishes. It's a losing cause.

"That's OK," the satellite installer tells a customer, "the setup you had was obsolete anyway. We'll replace it."

Tony Perry, in Traverse City, Mich.

Photo: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; credit: Los Angeles Times

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