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BINOCHE FEMME DANGEREUSE!: Juliette Binoche's Iran Visits Stir Two MPs' Xenophobia


By Darius KADIVAR 


Šimdb & AP - According to Iranian Mehr News Agency two Iranian MPs are worried about the perhaps too frequent travels of Juliette Binoche to Iran. During the last parliamentary session the MPs jointly requested that Iranian officials be cautious about issuing visas for foreign actors to visit Iran.

"The appearance of foreign actors in joint productions would result in cultural destruction since they would turn into role-models for Iranian youth," the notice read.

"We have heard that certain consequences might result from foreign actors' trips to Iran - consequences which might lead to intelligence and security issues," said Jalal Yahyazadeh, one of the petitioners, who is MP for the cities of Taft and Meibod.

French actress Binoche has recently traveled to Iran, to widen her knowledge of the country prior to her performance in the movie "Certified Copy", which is scheduled to be directed by celebrated Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami.

Oscar-winner Binoche stayed in Iran briefly in April 2006 on her very first visit to Iran which was warmly welcomed by the Iranian press, movie buffs and authorities who saw in this visit a sign of friendly relations between France and Iran at a time when Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was at odds with the International community over and particularly the USA over his country's nuclear ambitions and his controversial comments on the Holocaust and calls to wipe the State of Israel off the Map. President Ahmadinejad also faced an uproar of critics during his visit to Columbia University where he openly challenged questions on the existence of Homosexuals in Iran.



Binoche visited Iran last December to see Kiarostami
with whom she is to work on Certified Copy ŠIRNA & imdb


Although Iran's  President has not yet commented in regard to this issue the critics towards Mrs. Binoche presence do come from MP's representing his constituency of hardline conservatives. As Iran's president seems to be in a critical situation and even abandoned by Iran's Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Khamenei one may wonder if the current administration is not trying to look for scapegoats to reassert itself in the public eye.

Last November Prior to Binoche's December Visit, the French Star was the playmate of the month on the cover of Playboy Magazine's French Issue. An extremely artistic photo shoot that could hardly be seen as a "nude"  display of Binoche compared to what the magazine often displays ( without ever being vulgar or disrespectful of the female gender sex) may have been the source of this new absurd parliamentary controversy. Binoche is regarded as one of the greatest actress' of her generation and was awarded the 2nd Oscar EVER given to a French Star in a supporting and or Leading Role for her supporting role in Anthony Minghella's The English Patient. Like nearly all actress' in free and democratic societies she has naturally played nude in such films as in Jean Luc Goddard's Je vous Salut Marie , or in Philip Kauffman's adaptation of Kundera's novel The Unbeareable Lightness of Being. The issue of nudity on or off screen is taboo not to say forbidden in Iranian films since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Cooperation between Iranian and non Iranian film professionals was not even imaginable before the level of respectability and recognition that the Iranian New Wave Cinema received with the works of such maestro's as Abbas Kiarostami and the Makhmalbaf family at Cannes and other film festivals worldwide. Kiarostami's Palme D'Or for his film The Taste of the Cherry in 1997 also symbolized the coming to age of a new generation of Iranians ready to enter the social and political scene of a country isolated from the international community due to War, terrorism (outside its borders) and Revolution. The election of reformist President Mohamed Khatami in a landslide election was warmly welcomed by the international community and Iranian Cinema imposed itself throughout the 1990's for more than a decade as one of the most innovative cinema's of its time.


Playmate of November Issue of Playboy magazine
Šimdb &


However Iranian Cinema has been struggling with both critical and box office failures particularly after Sept 11Th and in the past two years, the number of Iranian films present at such acclaimed film festivals as Cannes or Berlin have diminished to nearly oblivion. This has led some directors such as Bahman Ghobadi or Mohsen Makhmalbaf to choose self exile in order to shoot their films outside the financial and artistic control of the Iranian government subsidies and censors. The latter directors have also become more bold in exploring themes deemed taboo in Iranian cinema. Probably the most striking example was in Mohsen Makhmalbaf's latest film The Scream of the Ants shot entirely in India where he openly filmed nude scenes with his female star Luna Shad ( Also main Host on VOA Cultural Program SHABAHANG) which remains unimaginable and impossible to do in Iran today. Makhmalbaf seems adamant to work in exile ever since unlike other members of his talented family who nevertheless have been facing threats and on set sabotage as was the case for Samira Makhmalbaf during the shooting of her latest film the Two Legged Horse in Afghanistan but it was not very clear who they seemed to hold responsible: The American and allied Troops in Afghanistan or Islamic Fundamentalists ?.


Makhmalbaf latest movie Scream of the Ants starring a "nude"
Luna Shad and co-star Mamhoud Chokrollahi
Š Makhmalbaf film house


France also was criticized during the last Cannes Film Festival for screening and Awarding Marjane Satrapi's animated film set at the time of the Islamic Revolution and deemed islamophobic by Mehdi Kalhor, Cultural Advisor to Iran's President Ahmadinejad.

Binoche is the second foreign show biz celebrity to visit Iran since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. In June 2005, Sean Penn traveled to Tehran as a journalist to cover the Iranian presidential election campaign for the San Francisco Chronicle.


Binoche Oscar Awardee in 1996. M For Mother Iran's submission for
2008 Oscar Race.


One can only regret Iran's lack of cultural openness but hope that this absurd reaction to Binoche's presence as well as to other foreign visitors to Iran will be ignored by the current administration and its President who are NORMALLY in charge of supporting Iran's cultural prestige and presence beyond its borders.  





Authors Notes:

Recommended Reading:


Iranian Pioneers in French Cinema by Darius KADIVAR



About the Author: Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Media Consultant. He is also contributes to OCPC Magazine in LA/US and to the London Based IC Publications The Middle East Magazine.

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