Official restrictions on screening films have added a new category to Tehran's black market, once the exclusive domain of porno flicks, home video footage and bootleg copies of onscreen Iranian and foreign films.
Films denied a screening license by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance are now being sold on sidewalks and street corners in downtown Tehran, the Persian service of ISNA reported on Saturday.
Most of the bootlegged offerings belong to Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Shirvani, who reported his home had been burglarized and all his documentaries and filming equipment were looted. Shirvani's documentaries "444 Days", on two U.S. diplomats detained in the U.S. embassy in Tehran, which was occupied by Iranian students on November 4, 1979, and "7 Blind Women Filmmakers", about seven short films made by a group of blind women, are now on sale by bootleggers. "Navel", Shirvani's first feature-length film on five personalities improvising their own dialogue, is another item offered in the market. Also for sale are some short films by auteur Abbas Kiarostami and his latest film "Shirin" starring Juliette Binoche along with a number of Iranian actresses. Other films on the market are "Bab'Aziz", a joint production of Iran, Tunisia and France on a mythical wayfarer by Tunisian filmmaker Nacer Khemir; Saman Salur's "A Few Kilos of Dates for a Funeral", on three men struggling to find comfort for themselves; and Bahman Qobadi's "No One Knows about Persian Cats", on the underground music scene in Tehran and the situation of young musicians in Iran. Most of the films have received attention and accolades at international events. However, the Culture Ministry has not allowed them to premiere in Iranian theaters for showing something allegedly un-Islamic or taboo in Iran. Kurdish Iranian filmmaker Qobadi, most of whose films have not been granted a screening license in Iran, intentionally offered his latest film "Persian Cats" online free of charge. In footage included with the film, he also asked everybody to distribute copies of it. Due to the Culture Ministry's refusal to grant screening licenses for Salur's films, he once quipped that he plans to focus on trite themes in his upcoming film in order to receive approval from the ministry for screening. Last year, Kiarostami, most of whose films have never been allowed to premiere in Iran, criticized Iranian cultural officials, saying, "They have problems with independent filmmakers; they don't like my films; they decide what people will watch, and unfortunately, our people think that I am not interested in screening my films in Iran."
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