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Iran Authorities Block Ceremony To Honor Oscar-Winning Director

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

Iranian authorities are refusing to allow a ceremony to honor the film director who won Iran's first-ever Oscar last month.

Photos: Iran's Farhadi Returns Home After Oscar Win

Iran's Ilna news agency reported that the planned ceremony -- for Asghar Farhadi and his film, "The Separation," which won Best Foreign Film at February's Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles -- was abruptly canceled on March 12 after organizers were denied the necessary permit.

The event was being planned by the Center for Directors of Iranian Cinema and the High Council of Producers of Iranian Cinema. In a statement, the director's group expressed regret:

Dear Asghar Farhadi, We intended to have a simple and friendly meeting to say 'Thank you' for the great achievement you brought Iran and Iranian cinema ahead of the [Iranian] New Year but the cultural custodians did not let us realize this. We're sorry. Alas.

Tehran had welcomed Asghar's Oscar as an Iranian triumph over Israel, since a film by an Israeli director (Joseph Cedar's "Footnote") was competing in the category.

The award was greeted with jubilation among Iranians as a bit of rare good news for their country on the world stage.

A banner congratulating Farhadi for his Oscar win

WATCH: The announcement of the award, Farhadi's acceptance speech, and Iranian reactions

It remains unclear why officials blocked the event.

But "A Separation" has reportedly upset some conservatives for the way it exposes troubles in Iranian society, including gender inequality and the desire of many to leave the country.

Farhadi, who returned over the weekend to a hero's welcome by fans and colleagues, has not commented on the ceremony's cancellation.

He has, however, said that he would never leave his homeland despite winning the film industry's top award. "I love my country and I will not change it for anywhere in the world," the 40-year-old filmmaker was quoted as saying by Iran's official IRNA news agency as he arrived in Tehran. "I will never emigrate from Iran."

But later he said, "I am at the point of filming a movie outside of the country."

Farhadi was also quoted as saying that true congratulations for his win from Iran's Culture Ministry would be the reopening of the House of Cinema, the country's leading independent film association. "That would make me happy more than anything else," he said.

The ministry last month ordered the House of Cinema to cease its operations in a move that was seen as part of a broader crackdown on independent art.

Copyright (c) 2012 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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