Film fest pulls plug on documentary
Replaced by forum on arts and politics. Filmmakers called for withdrawal of work to protest against Iran's subsidy of event

JEFF HEINRICH
The Gazette

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Montreal film festival has agreed to cancel the screening this afternoon of an Iranian documentary after being denounced for accepting a $2,000 subsidy from that country's regime.

In its place, the festival will hold a public discussion on the theme of arts and politics, using the controversy to spark debate.
But organizers stand by their decision to solicit grants from repressive governments like Iran's, even if it means alienating filmmakers persecuted by them.
"All festivals do business with regimes that are often quite questionable - all the festivals in the world," said Bernard Boulad, head of programming for the week-long Rencontres internationales du documentaire.
"Look at China, look at the Olympic Games that are going to happen there in 2008. All the heads of state will be there, smiling and walking the red carpet. No one criticizes that. Why not?"
The festival cancelled today's screening of Epitaph, a 34-minute video documentary about prostitution. It was shot clandestinely in Iran in 1988, edited in Sweden and released last year at international festivals.
The two Iranian exiles who made the film - New York-based director Moslem Mansouri and Ottawa-based producer Lila Ghobady - demanded Tuesday that it be withdrawn.
They were reacting to news of a $2,000 grant the Iranian embassy in Ottawa gave the festival to pay for the transport of some 35-millimetre films from Iran.
Epitaph was considered the hardest-hitting of 19 Iranian documentaries to have been screened at the eighth annual festival, which ends tomorrow.
When she suggested the festival's organizers are "the real prostitutes" for taking the handout, Ghobady proved she's part of the "radical fringe" that accepts no compromise, Boulad said.
"Calling us 'prostitutes,' that was too strong. It was tasteless. With that kind of discourse, we get nowhere. It helps no one."
Montrealers will get a chance to see Ghobady's film Jan. 20 at the Nima Library, 5206 Decarie Blvd., Suite 3.

"It's not a perfect place to show the film," said Ghobady, who moved to Canada in 2002. "But better there than at some festival that doesn't respect us."