Over the weekend, Iran released two of the six filmmakers arrested for suspicion of working for the BBC — and sentenced Iranian actress Marzieh Vafamehr to a year in jail and 90 lashes for starring in the Australian production “My Tehran for Sale,” which premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.
Directed by Granaz Moussavi and shot entirely in Tehran, “My Tehran for Sale,” stars Vafamehr as a stage actress who plots to flee Iran with the help of a man she meets at an underground rave.
Banned in Iran, the movie was distributed illegally in the country. Vafamehr was initially arrested in July and was released later that month after posting unspecified bail.
The two filmmakers who were freed Saturday are Naser Safarian and Mohsen Shahnazdar. According to the Now Lebanon website, which cited the Iranian Student’s News Agency, Safarian was released on bail equivalent to about $160,000. “This Is Not a Film” co-director Mojtaba Mir Tahmaseb remains in custody.
The news is only the latest in Iranian film-related censorship. In addition to the arrests of the documentarians, last week the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma removed Abdolreza Kahani’s “Absolutely Tame Is a Horse” from its lineup due to a ban on the film’s international distribution by the Iranian government.
At the same time, reports in Iranian media also suggest that the country wants to be viewed as a voice in the world of Western entertainment.
A landing page on the ISNA site boasts of multiple achievements by its entertainment community, including a film that won a prize in a human rights film festival, praise for an Iranian film that screened at a festival in Washington state and an Iranian actress who was selected as a jury member for a Turkish film festival.
While ISNA is considered one of Iran’s more independent and moderate media organizations, financial support comes from the Iranian government and the officially sanctioned student organization University Jihad.
Here’s our interview out of the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival with Moussavi, director of “My Tehran for Sale.”
And here’s the film’s trailer: