Daily Star staff
Beirut / Thursday, March 27, 2008
It's official: 'Persepolis' won't screen in Lebanon
Officials with the Lebanese Interior Ministry's General Security department have confirmed that the film "Persepolis" has indeed been banned in this country. Speaking to AFP on Wednesday, the general security official would not say why the French animated film - which has annoyed authorities in Iran for its critical portrayal of the Islamic revolution - would not be shown in Lebanon. The daily news service of the entertainment magazine Variety broke the story that Lebanese authorities had banned the film on March 11.
Another Lebanese official, speaking under customary conditions of anonymity, said the film had displeased the head of security services, who he claimed is close to the militant Shiite Muslim group Hizbullah, which is backed by Iran.
"It is clear," the source told AFP, "that ... General Wafiq Jizzini is close to Hizbullah and he doesn't want to allow such a movie, which he believes gives an image of Iran as being worse off than it was before the shah."
Jizzini could not be reached for comment.
Bassam Eid, production manager at Circuit Empire, the company that was to distribute the film, blasted the ban as ridiculous and unwarranted.
"The decision is even more ridiculous when you consider that you can buy for $2 pirated copies of the film in Hizbullah's stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut," Eid told AFP. "I purchased two copies of the film from the suburbs and from the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp and handed one over to Culture Minister Tarek Mitri."
Directed by Iranian-French emigre Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, and based on Satrapi's comic strips, the film shows its young heroine's brushes with the authorities in the early days of the Islamic revolution in the 1980s. "Persepolis" was screened in Iran last month, though state authorities there officially banned by in February 2007. The film is not expected to receive a general release in the Islamic Republic.
Satrapi's film was joint winner of the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival Sundance-Buying-Frenzy and was later nominated for an Oscar for best animated film. Despite its success in the US and France, "Persepolis" has been condemned by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government as Islamophobic and anti-Iranian.
It shows repression under the shah but also portrays the social crackdown, arrests and executions that followed the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979. The heroine's rebellious nature and conflicts with the authorities force her to leave Iran temporarily for Austria and then for France - this time never to return.
Maria Chakhtoura, culture editor at the pro-government French-language newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour, said she feared the ban of might be a sign of worse to come. "Does this mean that Lebanon has become a small suburb of Tehran" she asked in a commentary piece on Wednesday.
"This is part of an effort to eat away at people's liberties in order to plunge the country into darkness, to isolate it and to impose on it a culture it rejects."
The Daily Star, with AFP
Anything about political, economical and social matters in Lebanon. Pollution & nature preservation. Freedom abuse and censorship. Confessionalism and the different religions in Lebanon.
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I think there should not be any restrictions as such. There should be freedom in all countries and everyone's opinions should be respected