Four films by Parviz Sayyad were presented during the recent Celebration of Iranian Cinema by UCLA’s Department of Film & Television Archive at the Billy Wilder theater in Hammer Museum (April 13-29).
Two films from the pre-Islamic Revolution era in Iran:
Samad Becomes an Artist, 1973
Dead End, 1976
And the only two films he made after the Revolution in the US:
The Mission, 1983
After the showing of the last film on April 28th, when Shannon Kelley, the Festival director introduced Sayyad on stage, he made the following statement before a lively Q&A session: “At this point I would like to thank the UCLA Department of Film & Television Archive for including my films in its current Celebration of Iranian Cinema. Along with my gratitude I would like to also ad a few comments: Twenty-two years ago when UCLA was celebrating its first showing of the Islamic Republic film series, I was among a group picketing outside the theatre in protest of the cultural relationship between UCLA and the Ministry of Islamic Guidance in Tehran where the films were packaged and sent from. In fact I should admit that I am still opposed to such a friendly relationship.
I continue to believe that the Islamic political system governing in Iran today in its very essence and nature is anti art and science and opposed to modernity, which includes pictorial arts. Yet it uses cinema as a tool of deception to paint a very different image in the eyes of the world. I refuse to forget how the Islamic Regime of Iran came to power and established itself by burning movie theaters and in one instance with a live audience.
During the last six months prior to the Revolution, Islamic radicals burned 32 movie theaters in Tehran and 88 around the country, one of which was the Rex cinema in Abadan where 389 people lost their lives while watching a movie, meaning a product made by us, the family of cinema. Therefore as a member of the family of cinema I believe that the government of the Islamic Republic in which the conspirators of Rex cinema tragedy are still holding top jobs, is neither eligible nor entitled to have a film industry in the first place let alone participate in film festivals and cultural centers around the world with its so called quality films.
As an exiled filmmaker who has been shunned by film festivals for my anti radical Islamists film Checkpoint, I have witnessed how in the past quarter of a century most film festivals and art centers around the world turned a blind eye towards the constant violations of Human Rights in Iran simply to get a handful of films for their annual programming. Finally, I keep asking myself what is happening to the conscience of the world? There were times when artists who refused to work under fascist governments such as Nazi Germany met with great respect. For example we are now sitting in a movie theater named After Billy Wilder, a German screenwriter who fled to America in the early days of Hitler and became one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of American Cinema.
There was also a time when artists and even athletes from South Africa were not permitted to international arenas or competitions during Apartheid. What’s really happening now? Either the apartheid regime of the Islamic Republic is very lucky to be embraced by so many cultural and political institutions or the world is losing its sensitivity towards dictators and criminal regimes.
But in spite of this, lets take this step by UCLA as a sign of hope, a sign of conscience where all voices can be heard, even uncommon voices that are not so popular, like mine.”
Cinema Without Borders is open to post comments received about Mr. Sayyad’s statement.