Much of the time with Mr. Majidi was spent in discussion about Iran and its culture. It was noted that the image he shows of Iranian life is much different from what Americans usually see of Iran. He replied, “Unfortunately the managed portrait of Iran in the western news media is the wrong picture—trying to just look at everything from a political aspect and ignoring a nation with such a long history and such a rich culture. That really asserts Iran’s damage in the world. And what Iranian cinema does is that is it trying to correct that image—giving the real image of Iran and the people of Iran.”
He was also asked about issues of censorship in Iran, noting that some films did well abroad, but were not shown in Iran. He told us, “There is not really a standard way of dealing with films in Iran. There will be a certain regulation and then based on that the judgment about censoring a film or not happens. It really depends on the tastes of the people in the government at that time. So during [former President] Khatami it was easier; the current government has become tougher. But the problem is that it’s not regulated so you really don’t know. The film that gets censored by one government, when the government changes gets an award.”
There was also a question about the subjects of films being made in Iran. “In Iran there are three kinds of films. One kind is commercial films that are targeting just box office results. And it’s close to those kinds of movies anywhere else in the world. And there are propaganda films made mostly with the support of the government. And the third, independent films like [Majidi’s] films that are made by independent film artists who are mostly talking about humanistic issues and human values.”
When asked about the kinds of foreign films available for Iranians to watch, some wondered if there were an authority that decided that or if the technology of satellite dishes made foreign films more available. He told us: “First of all, about the satellites, the law of the country doesn’t allow people to have satellite, but the government is closing an eye to that, so everybody has that and everybody is watching all kinds of TV, movies and all that. So that is the main source.
“But also, in Iranian movie theaters you see screenings of independent American films. Also on Iranian television recently we’ve seen Spider-man and on the first day of the Iranian New Year, the Iranian First Channel was playing the Iranian dubbed Slumdog Millionaire. Of course, there are some scenes that are cut from those films if they are not agreeable with the way the government wants things to be like. Those kinds of X-rated kinds of scenes are not allowed.”