The IIFMA noted that the chosen film did not adequately represent the creative output of Iranian filmmakers this year, many of whom operate discreetly or are in exile.
Dissident Iranian film professionals have raised concerns over Iran’s official entry for the 2024 Oscars‘ Best International Feature Film category and are on the Academy to consider an alternative film to represent Iran. The government-controlled Farabi Cinema Foundation selected Reza Mirkarimi’s The Night Guardian as Iran’s submission to the 96th Academy Awards, a decision met with opposition from the Iranian Independent Filmmaker Association (IIFMA), according to the report by Deadline.
In a statement, the Iranian Independent Filmmaker Association said: “As the world is witnessing the oppression of the Iranian people by the Islamic Republic government and is aware of the terrifying pressure on Iranian artists, once again, the Iranian cinema’s representative at the Oscars has been announced by the state-controlled entity, Farabi.”
It continued: “Over the past year, Iranian filmmakers have been imprisoned, interrogated, and intimidated, with Farabi being a key player in implementing this severe repression. The Iranian Independent Film Association poses a simple question to the Academy: How can an institution known for its censorship and repression represent Iranian cinema?”
The IIFMA highlighted Farabi’s admission of collaborating with Iranian intelligence agencies to compile the selection list and noted that the organisation had been banned from several film festivals, including Berlin and Cannes, due to its close ties to the government. The IIFMA was formed to represent filmmakers unaffiliated with the Islamic Republic government.
Farabi’s committee reportedly chose The Night Guardian from a shortlist of three films, ignoring a body of work by Iranian filmmakers who often work underground or in exile due to government restrictions. The IIFMA raised concerns about the exclusion of critically acclaimed Iranian films from consideration, including those that enjoyed strong international careers this year.
It cited films such as Locarno Golden Leopard winner Critical Zone, Karlovy Vary Crystal Globe contender Empty Nets, Rotterdam Big Screen Award winner Endless Borders, Cannes Un Certain Regard title Terrestrial Verses, Venice Giornate degli Autori pre-opener The Sun Will Rise, and Sundance selection Shayda.
The latter title, which is the debut feature of Tehran-born, Melbourne-raised filmmaker Noora Niasari, has ended up being Australia’s submission.
“Independent filmmakers who are not part of the regime’s propaganda network are forbidden from working. Their homes and workplaces are raided, and public screenings of their films in Iran are unfeasible. Does the Academy consider the fact that these films are not shown in their home country a valid reason for their rejection at the Oscars?” it stated.
“These are just a handful of films produced in Iran last year, under severe security pressure and essentially underground. None of these films have made it to Farabi’s nomination list for the Academy,” said IIFMA.
“Farabi denies independent filmmakers their fundamental rights, while transforming the Oscar’s selection into a reward for the regime’s propaganda apparatus. We suggest that a chosen group of Academy members annually review the independent Iranian films showcased at reputable international festivals to nominate a representative of independent Iranian cinema for the Oscars.”
The submission deadline for the Best International Film category at the Oscars is October 2.