DAILY NEWS: Iranian Filmmaker Follow-Up; Sundance/NHK Finalists
by Brian Brooks and Maud Kersnowski/indieWIRE
>> PART TWO: Notables Rally Around Iranian Filmmaker; Questions Linger About Her Ultimate Sentence
(indieWIRE/11.06.01) -- On October 26, one hundred international filmmakers,
including Francis Ford Coppola, Ang Lee, Steven Soderbergh and Agnieszka Holland, released a statement supporting Iranian filmmaker Tahmineh Milani who was arrested in late August. Since then Allison Anders, Eric Stoltz and hundreds more have added their names. The petition was sparked by concerns that the accusations against Milani could result in the death penalty. She
is currently released on bail.
Milani's arrest seems have to been prompted by statements she made to an
Iranian publication, which she claims were off the record, regarding
"friends" who were imprisoned, tortured and executed directly after Iran's
revolution. Milani spent eight days in jail and was released only after the
intervention of reformist President Mohammad Khatami. It is widely believe
Milani's arrest was an attempt by the conservative judiciary to embarrass
The petition and its notable signatories have helped bring Milani's arrest
into the international spotlight. Originally created by a group of
filmmakers in Europe, the petition was eventually picked up by Facets
Multimedia, a Chicago-based specialty video distributor that has formalized
and promoted it. "What happens often with prisoners of conscience is things
happen so quickly that by the time the world finds out about it, it's too
late," Facet's Director Milos Stehlik said. "We wanted to avoid that."
The press releases and petition were written by Ray Privett, Facets'
coordinator of video collections. "After consultation with people in Iran
[including Milani] and elsewhere, we decided to do as much as we can," said
Privett who headlined the petition: "Filmmaker Faces Execution."
Highlighting the death penalty could actually increase the possibilities of
a capital charge against Milani, according to some experts on Iran. Human
Rights Watch* Researcher, Elahe Hicks who covers Iran for the Mid-East and
North African Division, believes focusing on the execution could be risky
because it makes it more of a possibility for Iranian officials to charge
her with a capital offense. "I think it's an exaggeration. And it might put
her life in danger by just talking about it. Those authorities inside Iran
want to see the reaction," Hicks explained. (Human Right Watch has released
no official statement concerning Milani's arrest).
"My theory is that this is solely intimidation maneuvering. I wouldn't be
surprised if there's no trial," commented Jamsheed Akrami a scholar of
Iranian cinema whose documentary "Friendly Persuasions" covers the film
industry in Iran. "They're trying to teach her a lesson, make an example of
her. There's no way they are going to officially execute her."
Whether or not Milani will be charged with a capital crime is uncertain. In
Iran, a person can be arrested and held without a specific accusation. Only
when the charges are made public do they become official. When Milani was
interrogated during her eight days in jail, she was questioned about crimes
that in Iran are punishable by execution. "She could receive the death
penalty, " her translator/spokesperson/husband Mohammad Nikbin told
While it's rare for an intellectual to be sentenced to death by the Iranian
government, it does happen. The most recent is a writer and clergyman
convicted of the capital crime of "Saying that the veil was not really based
on Islamic principle, but just tradition," according to Hicks. He is
currently in prison waiting to be informed whether his sentence has been
overturned on appeal. If Milani is accused of "Crimes against God," she
could face a similar sentence. Both Hicks and Akrami believe this is
extremely unlikely, partly because Milani is an international figure.
The authorities may repeat a tactic they've used with other intellectuals,
controlling her by neither pursuing nor dismissing the charges. She could
even be convicted, but allowed to remain out on bail during a lingering
appeals process. "They can use it [the charges] whenever they want to,"
Government signals seem to confirm this. They have not restricted her
ability to travel. Milani, Nikbin and their five-year-old daughter were
allowed go to the Cairo Film Festival and will be touring in the U.S. this
month. On Nov. 11, Milani will attend the screening of her most recent film,
"The Hidden Half," at the 2001 Festival of Iranian Film at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. They have also been able to talk to the press, unlike
others in Iran who are held incommunicado. "She's living in the country and
allowed to leave the country. A criminal is not allowed to leave the
country, especially a political criminal," Hicks said.
Nikbin told indieWIRE they are still extremely concerned about the charges
hanging over Milani. And so is Privett. "It's not something that should be
taken lightly at all. We don't want her to be allowed to vanish," he said.
"We didn't want to pull any punches. That's the reason I phrased the press
release the way I did."
While the exact charges against Milani remain unknown, international opinion
will undoubtedly influence Milani's fate. Critic Godfrey Cheshire, currently
writing a book on Iranian cinema, commented, "They [the Iranian government]
are very sensitive about Iran's image abroad and often that will prevail in
situations like this." [Maud Kersnowski]
[The petition can be found online at http://www.facets.org/petition.html.]
>> Eleven Finalists Named for Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award
(indieWIRE/ 11.06.01) -- Eleven finalists have been named for the annual
Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award which recognizes emerging
filmmakers. The finalists, selected from four regions around the world,
are eligible to win a $10,000 cash prize in addition to guaranteeing
purchase of the project by NHK for television broadcast in Japan. The
four winners (one each from Europe, Latin America, the United States
and Japan) will be announced during the 2002 Sundance Film Festival
which will take place in Park City, UT from January 10 - 20.
European finalists include Gjergj Xhuvani (Albania) for "The Bleating of
Sheep," Baltasar Kormakur (Iceland) for "The Sea," and Malgorzata Szumowska (Poland) for "Strangers." The Latin American finalists are Sebastian Codero (Ecuador) for "Cronicas," Vicente Amorim (Brazil) "The Middle of the World," and Pablo Casacuberta and Yukihiko Goto for "Tokyo Boogie."
Wanda Vision and Canal+ Spain also support the Latin American winner
with a pre-buy for all Spanish rights in addition to the $10,000 award.
American finalists include Tatia Rosenthal "$9.99," Alex Rivera "The Sleep Dealer," Jacob and Josh Kornbluth for "The Best Thief in the World." Kenji Nakanishi "Survivors," and Seisoku Kajita "The Man Who Wipes Mirrors" are the finalists from Japan. [Brian Brooks]
[For more information on the Sundance Institute visit its website: