Iran cancels Oscar-winner's welcome

Iran has cancelled a ceremony in honour of the country’s Oscar-winning director even though the government had hailed his victory as a triumph over a competitor from Israel.

The event for Asghar Farhadi, whose movie, “A Separation,” won the Oscar for best foreign film last month, was abruptly scrapped after authorities denied permission, according to the semi-official Ilna news agency.

There were no details as to why a permit was denied but some Iranian conservatives were upset with the film’s themes: domestic turmoil, gender inequality and the desire by many to leave the country.

Ilna said two cinema groups, the Centre for Directors of Iranian Cinema and the High Council of Producers of Iranian Cinema, issued a statement decrying the cancellation. All public events in Iran need government approval.

“We indented to have a simple and friendly meeting to say ’thank you’ for the great achievement you brought Iran and Iranian cinema but the cultural custodians did not let us realise this,” said the statement, addressing Mr Farhadi.

“We deeply regret this,” the statement added. There was no immediate reaction from Mr Farhadi.

Iran had welcomed his Oscar as the movie beat an Israeli film and three others in the foreign language category, describing it as a conquest for Iranian culture and a blow for Israel’s perceived outsized influence in America.

But Iranian hard-liners were also upset by the movie’s exposure of the troubles in Iranian society through the story of a collapsing marriage.

Authorities have long had an uneasy relationship with the country’s filmmakers and influential clerics have often denounced the domestic cinema as dominated by Western-tainted liberals and political dissenters. Some directors and actors have faced arrest or fled the country.

In January, authorities ordered the closure of the House of Cinema, an independent film group that had operated for 20 years and counted Iran’s top filmmakers, including Farhadi, among its members.

Last year, film director Jafar Panahi, who won awards at Cannes, Venice and other major film festivals, was sentenced to a six-year house arrest and a 20-year ban on filming after being convicted of “making propaganda” against Iran’s ruling system.

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