The Ghent Film Festival is one of the victims of the never-ending tribulations between the Iranian authorities and filmmakers. The Iranian government won't allow the film Absolutely Tame is a Horse to leave the country. The distributor of the film even lost his sales licence. The film is being replaced by Jafar Panahi's This is not a film. The venue and time of the screening remain unchanged.
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The Ghent Film Festival screened Jafar Panahi's Offside - and this was the highlight of the battle for artistic freedom. Panahi is not allowed to direct any films and travel for twenty years. That's why all major film festivals have invited Panahi to sit on the jury, and they have placed an empty chair on stage as a sign of protest. This is not a film is a documentary about Panahi that was shot while he was awaiting the verdict of the court. The Iranian authorities believe that some of his films sketch a negative picture of their country. That is a questionable statement. Three and a Half also shows three women who were imprisoned for a long time trying to flee the country. It is a fascinating film with a smart script. In Walking on the Rail, Babak Shirinsefat shows how many inhabitants of Tehran live on the brink of society. It illustrates poignant contradictions: a presenter who praises the country in view of the elections, outcasts, drug addicts, sick people who cannot afford operations because of a lack of money... And amidst all of that, a qualifier for the World Cup seems to have everyone enthralled. In Absolutely Tame is a Horse a fake policeman spends a night terrorising and blackmailing people. Apparently the authorities were anything but pleased about this indirect criticism on the regime. Earlier this year, A Separation won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. It will be the Iranian entry for the Oscars. In this film, the main character is also eager to leave the country, but the director stressed that he does not want to take a political stance.