Association of International Women for
Human Rights          (AIWHR)
April 1, 2006    Behjat Dehghan

Under Ground Cinema in Iran

After the 1979 revolution and the establishment of Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran, censorship was imposed freely.
and film making and cinema were under complete restriction by the government. Some film makers sought refuge in other countries, some chose to stay inactive, some worked with the government and justified the atrocities of the Islamic regimes.
A fourth group chose to remain in the country and stay active despite all obstacles. This last group of film makers did not comply with the government restrictions and also they stayed active. For the film industry, active noncompliance was a very risky and dangerous game because the regime does not tolerate criticism of any kind.
This group of film makers were forced to pursue their activities in secret. And, as a result, a phenomenon called the Underground Cinema took shape in Iran. Women, intellectuals, students, experienced and well known film makers, artists, and other experts in cinema joined the Under Ground Cinema group. All members of the Underground Cinema were at serious risk and jeopardized their lives for criticizing the government and for raising public awerness through the media.
Some of the topics of the documentaries made in Iran are include:
1-  Stoning and amputation for cases of adultery
2- Trafficking of women and young girls to the neighboring countries for sex trades. This practice generates more than two million dollars annually for the prostitution rings.
3- Suicides. The suicide rate in Iran is the highest in the world.
4- Censorship and prosecution of journalists, criters, writers, cinema and publishing companies.
5- Anti government uprisings.
6- Public execution, including public hanging and public floggings.
Some of these film makers have been prosecuted by the government, and some of them had to leave the country:
      Mona Molla Khani, cinema student, was arrested in May 2005. while interviewing and filming people in Saee  Park. No one knows what has happened to her.
      Moslem Mansouri, one of the pioneers in the Underground Cinema, had to leave Iran and seek refugee in the  United states in 1999.
      Leila Ghobadi and Peyman Allahyar escaped from Iran in 2005 and became refugees in Canada.
      Ali Safe became a refugee in Los Angeles in 2005.
Despite all the existing restrictions and risks involved, the network of underground filmmakers in Iran has been able to make many films and have somehow managed to smuggle them outside of Iran. In fact, the cooperation and unity of the members of the underground cinema within and outside Iran have successfully introduced some excellent documentary films to the international community. Members inside Iran do the filming and somehow smuggle them out of the country; members in other countries do the translation, editing, and other technical work.
Moslem Mansouri is a well known underground film maker who has played a key role in the formation of the Underground Cinema in Iran. He has been livin in Los Angeles since 1999 but continues to help the members inside Iran. Mansouri was born in 1964 in Iran. He graduated in film making from Azad University in Iran. In 1981, because of his political views he was arrested and imprisoned for two years.
He began working in Iranian cinema magazines in 1991 and published a book called "Cinema and literature." Between 1994 to 1998, Mr. Mansouri has produced eight documentary films on subjects such as violence against women, women in armed conflict, and the lives of the people in the theocratic rule of Iran. His films include
1. "Epitaph" A documentary film probing the issues of prostitution and women trafficking in Iran. This film has recently become ready for showing.
2. "Utopia: on Women and Armed cnflict " Depicting the situation of Iranian women after war between Iran and Iraq. Editing of this film has recently been completed and the film will soon be ready for showing.
3. "Close-up, Long Shot": The life of Hossein Sabzian, who loves cinema and has spent all his life working to materialize his dreams about film making and cinema. Sadly, the existing situation has never allowed him the chance to reach his goals. "Close-up, Long shot" earned the International Federation of Critiques award at the Turin Film Festival in Italy in 1997 and the Best Film prize at the Lisbon Festival in Portugal. It was praised at the Real Festival in France, Rotterdam festival in the Netherlands, Berlin Festival in Germany, Rome and Florence Festivals in Italy, etc. The association of documentary film makers in France, "Cahier de Cinema" and other cinema media in Italy, Germany, etc. have discussed this film. The M.K.2 Company in France has produced the DVD version of this film with French and English subtitles.
4. "Shamlou: The Poet of Freedom": The life of renowned Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou. This film has been shown and praised in the Middle East studies of New York University, the Literature Faculty of Harvard, and Berkeley in the U.S., and "Stig Dagerman Priset 99" foundation in Sweden. Amazon Distribution Company has so far sold more than 5000 copies of this film.
5. "Trial" About a group of 8mm filmmakers in Iran who have been making short movies without the permission of the Islamic regime. The Iranian regime condemns them to prison terms for their non-compliance with censorship rules. "Trial" was shown in May 2003 in the famous film festival of Robert Deniro - Tribeca - in New York and earned the documentary section prize.
   This film was also praised by Michael Moore, American filmmaker, It was shown on Channel 1 of the Swedish TV and was invited to be shown in the festivals in Chicago, Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Greece, Sweden, South Korea, Mexico, France and Montreal, Canada. It was shown at European and American festivals in 2004 and won the prize of Movie Eye/Kinoglaz inTver, Russia, in 2004.
In addition to the films listed above, Mansouri has made "Multitude," a film that describes the lives of many people in Iranian cinema. He also made a short film, "Dissolve", in Paris in 1997. He is currently editing two other films: One iabout the lives of Iranian artists in exile and the other one about the lives of street kids in Iran.
Mr Moslem Mansouri and other members of the network outside Iran have been trying hard to raise the voices of people in Iran who are suffering under the Islamic fundamentalist regimeThese movies produced by the Underground Movie Network have shed light on the atrocities of the Islamic Republic. They movies demonstrate the untold stories of tortures, prostitution of underage children and others. Unfortunately, individuals like Mr. Moslem Mansouri have limited resources to continue their mission of standing for the oppressed and disclosing the brutalities of the Islamic Republic.
Moreover, due to the ever present risks and threats to the individuals involved in making such movies, they cannot solicit for support inside their own country. Mr. Mansouri is petitioning for support and financial assistance to continue his work. We hope that all democratic and humanity- loving individuals who have found Mr. Mansouri's documentaries valuable in his fight with the Iranian regime will extend their supporting hand and help the cause in any way they can.