LEBANON: Censors pull plug on screenings of Iranian protest film during Ahmadinejad visit
As the Middle East braces for the controversial visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Lebanon this week, censors in Beirut are trying to make sure his visit goes smoothly.
They have put a halt to screenings of a documentary film about opposition protests in Iran that were due to coincide with Ahmadinejad's visit, according to a source, apparently in deference to Ahmadinejad and his entourage.
The movie, titled "Green Days" and directed by 22-year-old Iranian filmmaker Hana Makhmalbaf, was reportedly scheduled to be shown at the annual Beirut International Film Festival in the Lebanese capital on Wednesday, the first day of Ahmadinejad's two-day visit to Lebanon.
Bassem Hajj, press spokesman for the film festival, told Babylon & Beyond that censors from Lebanon's General Security contacted the festival over the weekend and requested that the movie be postponed.
He couldn't recall an incident in which any other film in the festival had ever gotten tangled up with the censorship authorities for such a reason.
Plans for now are to show the film on Oct. 14 or the day after, when Ahmadinejad is scheduled to leave the country, according to Hajj.
"As soon as he departs," he said, "there is a possibility to show it."
Makhmalbaf's film centers on the protests staged by Iran's political opposition following the disputed presidential elections of 2009, in which incumbent Ahmadinejad claimed victory. The film features graphic footage of the violent clashes that broke out between Iranian security forces and demonstrators.
Adding another angle to the controversy, Makhmalbaf is the daughter of the Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a close associate of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Iran's foremost opposition leader.
Makhmalbaf appeared deeply disturbed about the news coming out of Beirut in a comment she made in Farsi about the censorship of her film, posted on the website of the Makhmalbaf film house (Persian) and circulated on blogs in English.
In her note, Makhmalbaf called on Lebanese citizens to circumvent the censors and organize private screenings of the film in their homes. She also urged them to stand up against President Ahmadinejad.
"Ahmadinejad in my land is the symbol of censorship. Look how he brings censorship to your country before even arriving there," she wrote, according to the blog of activist Potkin Azarmehr. "Ahmadinejad stole our votes yesterday and will steal your trust today. His intention is not to help you, just as his intention is not to serve Iran. ... He uses your land as a frontline trench of his imaginary war."
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: Iranian filmmaker Hana Makhmalbaf. Credit: Amoeblog website. Video: Trailer of Makhmalbaf's protest film, "Green Days." Credit: YouTube