In the midst of the nuclear crisis, the Tehran Short Film Festival which opened this week was admitted for the first time by the American Film Academy into the group authorized to select works eligible for the prestigious Oscars.
The academy confirmed by email to AFP that the Tehran festival had been added “for the first time this year as the only qualifying festival in Iran for short films.”
Nearly 200 films, including 127 Iranian short films, will be screened during the festival which opened on Tuesday and will end on Sunday. The jury is made up of five members – an Iranian, a French, an Italian, a Japanese and an Austrian.
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The Iranian request for approval was initially rejected by the Oscars which do not accept “free” festivals, but that of Tehran is, explained to AFP the president of the 38th festival, Sadegh Moussavi.
“We replied that our country was under sanctions and that it is therefore impossible for those who wish to present their film to pay the registration fees. The academy finally agreed with our arguments and we are therefore the only free among the 130 festivals able to choose short films for the Oscars, ”he added.
Tehran had to demonstrate to the American Academy that for 37 years film teachers and foreign filmmakers had come to Iran at the invitation of the festival.
“It was long and difficult to get accepted by the Academy Awards. We had to prove our long history, the continuity of the festival, the presence of renowned international filmmakers as members of the jury, the high amount of prizes awarded and above all the quality of Iranian cinema recognized in the world ”, detailed Mr. Moussavi.
Since the creation of this festival, Iran and the United States have no diplomatic relations and Washington is still considered a sworn enemy of the Islamic Republic.
This year also coincides with efforts to resume negotiations to relaunch Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with the United States and other great powers, which would promise an end to a punitive sanctions regime. imposed by the Americans.
“I am both happy and proud of the qualification of our festival. It is a great achievement in the field of cultural diplomacy. We believe that culture and art can have a more prestigious status than politics ”, underlines Mr. Moussavi.
This festival was a springboard for many big names in Iranian cinema. Asghar Farhadi, Bahman Ghobadi and Reza Mirkarimi were awarded at the beginning of their careers by this festival before being recognized internationally, explains Mansour Jahani, media officer for the festival.
Due to its recognition by the American Academy, the festival received 6,402 films from 128 countries for the competition, 2,000 more than last year. It has selected 58 foreign and five Iranian films for the grand prize and the winner is eligible to compete for a nomination.
But the choice drew criticism from young directors who saw their film refused.
“It is my duty to write to the academy to protest against the censorship, injustice and unprofessional actions of the Tehran Festival”, wrote the filmmaker Farnoush Samadi on Instagram.
“As a member of the Academy of Oscars, I will not vote for a film preselected by the Tehran Short Film Festival, in order to support all the filmmakers whose films have been withdrawn”, also protested on Instagram director Ali Asgari.
The president of the festival rejected these accusations. “There was no censorship on our part. We received 1,500 films from Iranian filmmakers. We had to make a choice, taking as criteria the themes and the quality of the film ”reacted Mr. Moussavi.
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The Tehran Short Film Festival Eligible For Oscars – A First