gregor at gregor at
Fri May 4 10:34:32 MDT 2001

Didn't follow the rules and got deported. Where's the irony? I'm sure
that an american in Iran would have fared worse in such a situation.

> FIPRESCI informs
> of an open letter written by Jafar Panahi,
> the Iranian Director whose film "The Circle"
> has won the last Venice Festival,
> and addressed to his US colleagues
> who awarded him the Freedom of Expression Prize
> -----------------------------------------------
> Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
> As the winner of the Freedom of Expression Award for my film,
> The Circle, I would like to take your kind attention to what
> happened to me in your country, an incident that takes place
> everyday in US. And let me hope to see your reaction to these
> inhuman incidents. I believe, I am entitled to be curious about
> the response of the Board who granted me such Award, a response
> proportionate to the behavior I and many other people faced and
> will face.
> You have considered my movie as a "wonderful and daring" film
> and I wish your Board and the US media would dare to condemn
> the savage acts of American Police / Immigration Officers and
> may such condemnation would make the people aware of these acts.
> Otherwise, what would mean winning such Award for me? And what
> honor I would have to keep it? Then, I may return this Award
> to you as you may find another figure that is more in proportionate
> to freedom!
> In the booklet you kindly sent me together with your Award, I
> read that a prestigious film personality like Orson Welles has
> already received this Award. Should I be happy that this great
> man is not among us now to hear how the American police behaves
> to the filmmakers or people who enter your country? As a filmmaker
> obsessed with social issues, my films deal with social problems
> and limits and naturally I cannot be indifferent to racist, violent,
> insulting and inhuman acts in any place in the world. However,
> I certainly do detach the acts of American police and politicians
> from the cultural institutions and figures as well as from the
> people of USA - as I was informed, the film critics and audiences
> in your country very well received my film. Nevertheless, I will
> inform the world media about my unpleasant experience in New
> York and I hope, your Board, who strives in freedom of expression,
> would react properly in this respect.
> On April 15, I left Hong Kong Film Festival to the Montevideo
> and Buenos Aires Festivals through United Airlines' flight 820.
> This 30-hours trip was via New York JFK airport and I had to
> stay there for two hours and change my flight to Montevideo.
> Further to my requests, the staff of all the said Festivals had
> already checked if a transit visa is required and they assured
> me there is no need for such visa and moreover, the airliner
> issued me the ticket visa NY. But, I myself did ask the United
> Airlines staff for the need for a transit visa at Hong Kong airport
> and I heard the same response.
> As soon as I arrived at JFK airport, the American police took
> me to an office and they asked for finger-printing and photography
> because of my nationality. I refused to do it and I showed them
> my invitations of the Festivals. They threatened to put me in
> the jail if I would not do the finger-printing. I asked for an
> interpreter and to call. They refused. Then, they chained me
> like the medieval prisoners and put me in a police patrol and
> took me to another part of the airport. There were many people,
> women and men from different countries. They passed me to new
> police men. They chained my feet and locked my chain to the others,
> all locked to a very dirty bench. For 10 hours, no questions
> and answers, I was forced to sit on that bench, pressed to the
> others. I could not move. I was suffering from an old illness,
> however, nobody noticed. Again, I requested them to let me call
> someone in New York, but they refused. They not only ignored
> my request but also the request of a boy from Sri Lanka who wanted
> to call his mom. Everybody was moved by the crying of the boy,
> people from Mexico, Peru, Eastern Europe, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh
> and... I was thinking that any country has its own law but I
> could not just understand those inhuman acts.
> At last, I saw the next morning. Another police man came to me
> and said that they have to take my photograph. I said never.
> And I showed them my personal photos. They said no and that they
> have to take my photo (in the way the criminals are taken) and
> to do the finger-printing. I refused. An hour later, two other
> guys came to me and threatened me to do the finger-printing and
> photography by computer and again I refused and I asked for a
> phone. At last, they accepted and I could call Dr. Jamsheed Akrami,
> the Iranian film professor of Columbia University, and I explained
> to him the whole story. I requested him to convince them and
> as he knows me well, I am not a guy to do what they were looking
> for.
> Two hours later, a police man came to me and took my personal
> photo. They chained me again and took me to a plane, a plane
> that was going back to Hong Kong.
> In the plane and from my window, I could see New York. I knew
> my film, The Circle, was released there for two days and I was
> told the film was very well received too. However, the audiences
> would understand my film better if they could know that the director
> of the film was chained at the same time. They would accept my
> beliefs that the circles of human limits do exist in any part
> of this world but with different ratios.
> I saw the Statue of Liberty in the waters and I unconsciously
> smiled. I tried to draw the curtain and there were scars of the
> chain on my hand. I could not stand the other travelers gazing
> at me and I just wanted to stand up and cry that I'm not a thief!
> I'm not a murderer! I'm not a drug dealer! I... I am just an
> Iranian, a filmmaker. But how I could tell this, in what language?
> In Chinese, Japanese or to the mother tongues of those people
> from Mexico, Peru, Russia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh... or
> in the language of that young boy from Sri Lanka? Really, in
> what language?
> I had not slept for 16 hours and I had to spend another 15 hours
> on my way back to Hong Kong. It was just a torture among all
> these watching eyes. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. But
> I could not. I could just see the images of those sleepless women
> and men who were still chained.
> Jafar Panahi
> ---------------------
> Forwarded by FIPRESCI
> Klaus Eder
> Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique
> Schleissheimer Strasse 83
> D-80797 Munich
> T +49-89-18.23.03, +49-172-850.53.02
> F +49-89-18.47.66
> keder at

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