Bahman Ghobadi, the exiled Iranian filmmaker who has won prizes at Cannes, Berlin, San Sebastian and many other international festivals, has penned a letter to the Film Academy saying, “It would be great if we could have one representative from exiled artists.”
Read his missive in full below.
Ghobadi, who has been in exile for the past 13 years, joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2017. In his letter to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, he talks about exiled artists and suggests that every year one of their movies should be presented to the Academy for Oscar consideration. He notes that the same thing happened for the Tokyo Olympics, where a team of refugee athletes was able to join the competition.
Iran is a country with a complicated filmmaking legacy. One the one hand, it has spawned some of the world’s great directors — Abbas Kiarostami comes to mind — and its films have won Oscars and the Palme d’Or. But the country’s cinema has also been tied up with its politics, inextricably at times.
In 2013, Iran boycotted the Oscars entirely, not allowing any of its directors to submit films in its name. Ironically, the year before, Asghar Farhadi’s film A Separation won Best Foreign Language Film for Iran at the Academy Awards.
Ghobadi’s letter cites, among others, Jafar Panahi, who was arrested in 2010 and barred from making movies but has continued to work under threat of imprisonment. His 2015 film Taxi won the Golden Bear at Berlin, and in 2018, Panahi lamented that his own films including The White Balloon — which won the 1995 Camera d’Or at Cannes — can be screened in other countries but have not been allowed to be shown in Iran.
Ghobadi’s Father of My Children won the Special Jury Prize and two other awards at Cannes in 2009, and he shared the Camera d’Or at the 2000 festival for A Time for Drunken Horses. Ghobadi’s Marooned in Iraq earned the François Chalais Award at Cannes in 2002, and his Turtles Can Fly took the Peace Film Award at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival.
Here is Ghobadi’s letter to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson in its entirety:
I wish one’s homeland was like a violet and you could carry it everywhere with you.
I – Bahman Ghobadi – as the member of Oscar academy – would like to address the concern of many filmmakers around the world, including me. We are filmmakers away from our home countries while we are still identified based on the countries we come from. I as an Iranian cannot live in my own country because of the Islamic regime of Iran. I have to live in exile just because I demanded my rights and freedom of speech. This is the case for many filmmakers around the world; these people cannot return to their home countries for different reasons and they have no other choice but to live in foreign countries.
Despite being the member of Oscar Academy, due to my current condition, countries such as Iran and Turkey will not introduce me as their representatives. Needless to say that there are a lot of independent filmmakers living in their own countries who have been deprived of their rights and are suffering in silence. These brave filmmakers’ works are not only censored and banned by the regimes, but also they never get an opportunity to enter the Oscar academy. Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof are good examples alongside a group of Russian and Chinese filmmakers who have to work under a lot of pressure and censorship.
On the other hand, I have to struggle with other issues as well. Other than having to carry this huge burden on my shoulders, I don’t know what language I should use for making my movie so that it can be screened in other countries. The only thing I can do is to hope that a government will appreciate my art and introduce it to the academy.
I am sure that there are other filmmakers who have to suffer like me. Therefore, it would be great if we could have one representative from exiled artists. This happened in Tokyo Olympics where a team of refugee athletics were also allowed to join the competition. There could be a refugee team of filmmakers; they can have their works viewed by a jury and eventually one movie can be chosen from the refugee team. This not only provides a great opportunity for these filmmakers to have their works watched on an international level, but also raises awareness about their condition and the reasons why they are not living in their native countries. Such artists can gain a lot of publicity, which will provide them with more opportunities and financial support. I am making this request on behalf of other artists living in exile; artists who have the same condition as me. I hope you can give this issue your immediate attention.
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