Iranian Director Ghanizadeh Dedicates Award to Slain Protester Pooya Bakhtiari 

Pouya Bakhtiari.

By Azadeh Karimi

Iranian film and stage director Homayoun Ghanizadeh, whose 2019 film “The Clown” won the top prize in the “Exceptional Talent and Creative” section of the “13th Gathering of Screenwriters and Film Critics”, dedicated his award to Pooya Bakhtiari, a 26-year-old man who was shot in the head and killed during street protests in Tehran on November 18.

During his acceptance speech at the award ceremony held on January 30 at the Parsian Azadi Hotel in Tehran, Mr. Ghanizadeh paid tribute to those who had lost their lives in the violent nationwide protests in November, which left 314 people dead and scores of others injured.

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The event organizers had postponed the ceremony and replaced the word “Celebration” in the original title for the event to “Gathering” as a sign of respect for the victims of the Ukrainian passenger plane which was mistakenly shot down by Iranian military on January 8 killing all 176 people on board.

“It was very sensible to replace the word ‘Celebration’ with ‘Gathering’ in the title,” award-winning actress Fereshteh Sadre Orafaee said. “Celebration is an inappropriate word given the recent social climate in the country.”

While Iranian state media reported on the award ceremony, they released edited footage of the event, cutting out comments by Ghanizadeh and other award recipients about the November protest and the crash of the Ukrainian passenger plane.

Several uncensored video clips of the ceremony were, however, posted and shared on social media.

“You must speak up. It is an awful disgrace to keep quiet. It is a real shame to remain silent about the tragic events of November 2019,” Mr. Ghanizadeh said in a video clip. “There is no shame to speak about it. We must speak about the 2019 killings. We must discuss the events that occurred in our country.”

“Artists have social responsibilities. People look to us for support. We should not abandon the public. They must not get the impression that we have deserted them,” Ghanizadeh noted. “We will get through this period. It will pass. Ultimately, it will be us and the public. They will judge us.”

“I would like to dedicate this award, this gift, to the spirit of Pooya Bakhtiari, who died for his country, and to his esteemed family,” Ghanizadeh added.

“We are the people. We are ordinary people, so stop calling us celebrities,” Hamed Behdad, who won the Best Actor award for his performance in Reza Mirkarimi’s 2019 “Castle of Dreams,” said in his emotional acceptance speech. “I had never felt so close to the public until this past November.”

“As an artist, I dislike what I see in the mirror because I feel that I have not fulfilled my responsibility,” Mr. Behdad added. “My heart is heavy with grief. There is a fire in my chest.”

Behdad read a message he had received on his birthday November 17 from his mother, asking him not to publish any pictures of himself on social media as a sign of respect for “all the young people who had risked their lives to protest against the high cost of living.”

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Another actor, Navid Mohammadzadeh, also dedicated his award to the family of the victims of the Ukrainian plane crash.

“I dedicate this award to the victims of this ‘air accident,’ ‘human error,’ ‘tragedy,’” Mr. Mohammadzadeh said. “We do not know what to call the things they do to us any longer.”

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]



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