Iran standoff hits Canada film festival

Thu Apr 17, 2008 12:13am EDT
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By Etan Vlessing

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - The "Spotlight on Iran" sidebar at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, which opens Thursday, is in jeopardy because of problems arranging travel documents for Iranian filmmakers.

Organizers of the 11-day festival said Wednesday that both Canadian and Iranian officials have been little help in arranging visas for six Iranian filmmakers, along with their documentaries, due in Toronto for an April 24 panel dubbed "Iran to You."

"We were in Tehran in October and met with the Canadian consulate, and they let us know it would be difficult to get filmmakers to the festival. It's proven quite difficult," Hot Docs director of programming Sean Farnel said.

Canada has a history of strained relations with Iran, particularly since Canadian citizen Zahra Kazemi was killed in an Iranian prison in 2003.

In 2005, Canada restricted its official contact with Iran to four subjects: human rights, Iran's nuclear program, issues related to Kazemi, and Iran's role in the region.

Iranian filmmakers due in Toronto include Mahnaz Afzali with the "The Red Card," a film about an Iranian soccer hero whose life becomes tabloid fodder when his secret mistress murders his wife; Massoud Bakhshi and "Tehran Has No More Pomegranates," an homage to Iran's capital; and Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami's "Cyanosis," a stylistic portrait of a lovesick Iranian street artist that involves animated sequences.

In all, 170 films from 36 countries will screen at Hot Docs, North America's largest documentary festival.It kicks off Thursday with the U.S. film "Anvil! The Story of Anvil," Sacha Gervasi's portrait of an aging Canadian metal band.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter