Letter to International documentary film festival in Montreal

by Lila Ghobady; Epitaph's producer

I don't want my documentary shown at the Montreal Documentary Film Festival

I don't want my documentary shown at the Montreal Documentary Film Festival, which received bloody oil money from the murderous, corrupt and oppressive Iranian regime. I am calling to cancel the screening of my film," Epitaph" at this festival.

I was shocked to hear that the eight Annual "Rencontre Internationales du Documentaire" film festival in Montreal received financial support from the Iranian embassy, and   could not believe my eyes when I read in Saturday's Gazette that on the festival opening night last Thursday, a representative thanking the Iranian embassy for its support.
I am producer and co-director of "Epitaph", a documentary the festival planned to show next Saturday. Epitaph shows how the Iranian Islamic fundamentalist has forced thousands of our Iranian
women into prostitution in order to support themselves and their families.
The regime in Iran is violently misogynist. It stones women to death. It forces them into prostitution. And at the same time sells young Iranian girls to neighboring countries as prostitutes. It is a monstrous hypocrisy for the festival to even consider accepting funds from Iran and then to screen a film which chronicles the Iranian regime's savage and ongoing human-rights abuses.
Who, I ask, are the real prostitutes here?
Between 1991 and 1998, the film director Moslem Mansouri put his life in great danger by establishing an underground cinema inside Iran. He secretly made eight documentaries without permission from the Iranian government's cultural and cinema ministry. His goal was to take those documentaries out of the country and show the world what happens to Iranians inside Iran at the hands of Islamic regime that took power in 1979.
Since Mansouri escaped from Iran five years ago, he has had a strictly observed a principle of never showing his films in any film festival which directly or indirectly may be in contact with the Iranian regime or supported by it.
This principle is important, and it overrides any local government's interest in maintaining a good cultural and economic relationship with the Iranian dictatorship.

The reason why this is necessary is obvious: 99 percent of Iranian films made with permission and financial support of the regime, even though they may be marketed as "independent".
But since no dissent is permitted in Iran, how could they be?
They are propaganda of an oppressive government, and I will not have "Epitaph" tarred with the same brush, paid for with money stained red with the blood of Iranians.

Applying this principle, Mansouri and I have been careful about which film festival invitations we would accept. Since our other film, "Trial", was shown three years ago at the festival. We felt the festival was independent after our investigation and after seeing the
festival's interest in showing exiled artist's works and exhibiting the photos Iranian-Canadian photo journalist Zahra Kazemi, who was killed by the
Iranian regime while she was in Iranian jail two years ago. So I decided to submit "Epitaph" to this year's festival. It hadn't occurred to me that the festival would have sold out its reputation for independence for a small donation from the Iranian embassy. But it did, and all those involved in that decision should be ashamed for it.

Accordingly, I am strongly asking to withdraw my film from the festival, with apologies to those who wanted to see it. There is no place for "Epitaph" in a place where the support of the murderous Iranian regime accepted with thanks and congratulations.

Long live freedom,

Lila Ghobady (Epitaph's Co-Director & Producer)

November 14 2005
Ottawa, Canada