In Iran showing US films is fine, writing about them not

March 21st, 2008 - 9:21 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Angelina Jolie
By Farshid Motahari
Tehran, March 21 (DPA) On the occasion of Noruz, the Persian New Year, Iran’s state television network IRIB will broadcast 22 new Hollywood productions during the two-week holiday. The Iranians welcome this decision and look forward to watching the latest movies, most of them blockbusters or academy award winning films from the “Great Satan”, the term used by the Iranian political system for political arch-foe the US.

While the IRIB allows the broadcast of the films themselves, a press supervisory committee affiliated with the country’s Culture Ministry last week closed nine cinema magazines for just reporting about them.

“It is indeed funny that showing the films themselves on state television to millions of viewers is legitimate, but providing information about the same films to only thousands of readers not,” said a writer of one of the magazines, who insisted not being named.

The magazines were closed on charges of “reporting about the immoral private lives of foreign cinema stars” although the magazines only tried to inform the public about Hollywood production and actors with a cautious touch of celebrity gossip.

“Writing for example about Angelina Jolie’s pregnancy is immoral, (but) making dozens of writers jobless just before Noruz is not,” added another writer, who also preferred to remain nameless as not to get into yet more trouble.

The magazine was written by mainly young writers who had hoped to make a living through non-political journalism as their political writer colleagues had lost their jobs in the previous years after accusations such as jeopardising or undermining national interests.

Their hopes ended abruptly.

The closure of the magazines in fact only hurt the reporters, as the readers can easily follow the same news via the Internet - particularly as some the sites are run by Iranian expatriates and in Persian.

“In the magazines, the readers could also follow news related to the Iranian cinema industry which could have promoted Iranian filmmakers and actors as well. Now the Internet has become the only alternative and God knows which of the two options is more immoral,” an Iranian publisher said.

The films to be shown this Noruz, starting Thursday at 05:48 GMT, on the IRIB include “There Will Be Blood” by Paul Thomas Anderson, which won two US academy awards for best leading actor, Daniel Day Lewis, and best cinematography
Robert Elswit.

Others films include “The Bucket List” (Rob Reiner), “King of California” (Michael Cahill II), “Shooter” (Antoine Fuqua), “In the Valley of Elah” (Paul Haggis), “American Gangster” (Ridley Scott), “The Assassination of Jesse James” by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik) and “Live Free or Die Hard” (Len Wiseman).

Although Iranian film fans have already watched the original versions on pirated DVD copies available in the black market, but still the people look forward to see the movies with Persian dubbing.

“It is always nice to watch these nice films during Noruz,” said Simin, a housewife from Tehran.

Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, most of Hollywood movies were banned in Iran. The ban opened new business opportunities for so-called “cultural smugglers”, who somehow brought the films into the country and distributed them, first as VHS, later as VCD and now as DVD copies.

Some of the films are recorded directly from the movie screen abroad and then burnt on DVDs. Although the copies have neither picture nor sound quality they are still welcomed by enthusiastic film fans.

“Watching these films is like a bridge to the West. Our DVD providers are somehow like cultural ambassadors,” said Haleh, a chemical engineer in Tehran.

Pirated DVDs are available in the black market at prices around $2, audio CDs at around $1. In the meantime some companies have dared to offer their films online to Iranian customers, including home delivery.

“We want to act like a local (online shopping portal) Amazon. You just order and we deliver,” said Farzad, who runs one of these online services.

“We have to be very careful because if (local authorities) catch us, we will be in deep deep trouble,” he added, speaking of the possibility of confiscation of all his equipment as well as harsh cash penalties.

Farzad does not consider the broadcasting of top Hollywood films on state television as competition as most of them would be censored anyway.

Touching and kissing scenes are rigorously censored and “indecent” clothing either cut as well or refilmed and a more decent outfit painted on the actresses’ body.

Due to the cuts, sometimes also the story line is affected leaving the viewer baffled, sometimes even until the end of the film.

“Some of the movies are less than 90 minutes. You are then forced to guess what could have happened in the remaining 30 minutes,” said Farzad.

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