It is in the darkest times that art — and those who create it — can remind us all of our shared humanity.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been and remains committed to free speech and artistic freedom, and to supporting the filmmakers who uphold those values. Amid the ongoing protests in Iran, the Academy's MENA x WANA Alliance reached out to Iranian filmmakers and Academy members to share, in their own words, their feelings about what is currently unfolding in Iran, as well as how they envision what true solidarity and support from the global film community would look like moving forward.
The uprisings in Iran began following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman from Saqqez, a city in northwestern Iran, who was visiting Tehran, located approximately 350 miles away in northern Iran, to spend time with her only sibling, her brother. On Sept. 13, she was arrested by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating the country's law which requires that all women wear a headscarf to fully cover their hair in public. According to reports, following her arrest, Amini reportedly suffered a skull fracture caused by severe trauma to the head. She was taken to a hospital, where she fell into a coma. Amini died on Sept. 16.
Following Amini's tragic death, protests erupted in her hometown. They have since spread across all of Iran's 31 provinces. Protesters have taken to the streets, chanting, "Women, life, freedom!"
Marjane Satrapi, who was born in Iran and grew up in Tehran, is the filmmaker behind Persepolis, the deeply moving 2007 animated biographical drama which she adapted from her own graphic novel. The film is about her life in Iran before and after the Islamic Revolution, and then, in Europe. When Persepolis was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar, Satrapi became the first woman to ever be nominated in that category.
"I have personally lived through the oppression of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and this is why I left my beloved country," Satrapi tells A.frame. "I wanted freedom and that was not possible — especially if you were a woman."
Satrapi's response continues, in full, below:
According to their laws we are worth half of a man no matter how intelligent, smart and successful we are, two women equal one man. They told us to cover our hair, to hide our body, to look down, not to tempt men forgetting that by telling this they were directly insulting themselves, reducing men to some weak being not able to control themselves.
We never accepted it but what could we do? Taking our veil off meant being arrested, humiliated, beaten up.
Forty two years have passed since these archaic rules are part of the constitution of Iran. Meanwhile, slowly but surely, our society changed. Our youth is modern and secular. They want Democracy.
This youth, these fearless girls who take off their headscarves, these brave boys who are beside them supporting them, all shouting together "WOMAN! LIFE! FREEDOM!" is the direct result of this change. They know that women's rights are human rights. They know that a society that oppresses its women cannot be democratic.
Each time they go out, each time they chant, every time a veil is removed and a hair is shown, they risk their lives. They are arrested, tortured or killed like Mahsa Amini and sadly many others.
There is nothing more beautiful than courage. By supporting them, we support their audacity and determination. Please stand by us.
Bahman Ghobadi, the filmmaker behind films like Turtles Can Fly (2004), Half Moon (2006), No One Knows About Persian Cats (2006) and the documentary A Flag Without a Country (2015), shares with A.frame, "Once again, the murderous Islamic regime couldn't overcome its hatred and rage towards the protesters who are fighting for their freedom in the streets and started shooting at the innocent defenseless civilians."
Continue reading Ghobadi's thoughts below:
This time, the regime attacked women, children and Kurdish families living in a small region in Kurdistan Iraq and put them on fire by its birds of death. Loitering munitions, destroying a school. They killed a pregnant woman and the doctors tried so hard to save her baby from her belly. However, unfortunately, the little angel passed away, too. It’s been decades that the world hasn’t seen such atrocities and violence. The Islamic regime wants the country’s movement to deviate from its right path and is actively looking to accuse others and punish them for the protests in Iran.
All the decent individuals from across the globe should reveal these atrocities and express their hatred towards such horrific acts.
You should raise your voices to stop the brutal regime from committing such atrocities. A tyrannical regime who shoots teenagers and adults from a very close distance in the streets.
Don't allow such a despotic regime to commit these crimes without the fear of punishment.
Speak up and condemn the Islamic republic regime of Iran.
Actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, who broke out in her homeland of Iran with films like The Report (1977) and Desiderium (1978) and earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for 2003's House of Sand and Fog, tells A.frame, "43 years of oppression, misogyny, child abuse, and embezzlement, and 43 years of religious tyranny have led to an uprising in Iran like never seen before."
Continue reading Aghdashloo's statement below:
The spontaneous movement was ignited by the death of a twenty-two-year-old girl, "Mahsa Amini" in the hands of the so-called "Morality Police" for not wearing a proper hijab and was led by the brave Iranian women on the front line aiming to put an end to all the misery, living under their anti-human government, that kills its own children to remain in power.
University, high school, and even elementary students of all genders are now fighting for their basic human rights. Unarmed and facing brutal forces of law, this young generation has no fear of losing their lives over freedom.
Their message is loud and clear, Death to the Dictator.
Having gone through the 1979 revolution myself, I must admit what is happening in the streets of Iran nowadays resonates with me a lot. But the huge difference is that unlike today's generation of Iran, my generation was politically naive. My generation had not witnessed wars and was not familiar with their consequences. My generation, unlike today's generation, had little knowledge of politics, let alone of the political prisoners and torture chambers. This generation has witnessed them all on the internet, on television, and in the streets of Iran and can no longer tolerate the injustices. They don't underestimate the power of terror but are ready to pass the terror to gain their freedom at a high cost, to live or die for freedom.
This generation will finally win this battle, but it's only a matter of time, and of course, very much depends on the love and support of the people of the world.
Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian filmmaker whose films A Separation (2011) and The Salesman (2016) each won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, shared a video on Instagram, speaking about the women – many of whom are young women – leading the protests. "I deeply respect their struggle for freedom and the right to choose their own destiny despite all the brutality they are subjected to," he said. "I am proud of my country’s powerful women, and I sincerely hope that through their efforts, they reach their goals."
"Through this video, I invite all artists, filmmakers, intellectuals, civil rights activists from all over the world and all countries, and everyone who believes in human dignity and freedom to stand in solidarity with the powerful and brave women and men of Iran by making videos, in writing or any other way," he continued. (Watch the full video on Instagram.)
Actress Nazanin Boniadi (Hotel Mumbai and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power), who was born in Tehran and raised in London as a political refugee, penned a column for Deadline about the protests, writing, "What we have witnessed in the two weeks since Mahsa’s untimely death, is nothing short of the first female-led revolution of our time." (Read Boniadi’s column in full on Deadline.)
The Academy will proudly continue to promote the important perspectives and truths that the global film community needs to express to the public.
The MENA & WANA Alliance is dedicated to advocacy, education, growth and community for Academy members with an emphasis on those representing the Middle East, West Asia and North African region of the world. The mission is to work with the region’s complexity, and form an Alliance that is built on inclusion, respect and acknowledgement of the range of countries, cultures and identities it represents.