Many members of Iran’s artistic community have criticized filmmakers who have worked with the Peace Cultural and Media Organization, which has close links to the IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. This has not stopped Mohammad-Mehdi Heidarian, the head of the Iran Cinema Organization (ICO), from giving high praise to the organization.
“We admire the organization and the creative community for making strategic films,” Heidarian said recently.
Speaking on the TV program Cinema-2, Heidarian said: “Strategic cinema doesn’t deal exclusively with war. It also delves deeply into social issues.”
“The [documentary Mohammad] Rasulullah [directed by Majid Majidi in 2014] was a strategic film. So are ones that make powerful social commentaries,” Heidarian explained. He added: “We must identify strategic issues, and address them confidently.”
Heidarian was among a group of cultural figures who in the 1980s promoted state-sponsored cinema with a narrowly defined mission. He recently said: “The private sector cannot successfully manage the current film market.”
Heidarian has said that the ICO would welcome any individual or group who might have good ideas for films. He has, in effect, invited state and government institutions to participate in propaganda cinema. “We are grateful to the Peace Cultural and Media Organization for giving the country’s directors opportunities to make strategic films,” he said.
The reputations of many renowned filmmakers including Ebrahim Hatamikia have suffered due to their association with the Peace Cultural and Media Organization.
Ali Qanavati, a conservative journalist and the managing director of the Sura TV, recently said: “The organization sponsors three to four film projects at any given time, one of which is usually allocated to Hatamikia.” He added: “Hatamikia’s involvement lends credibility to the project. He is well aware of this fact, and successfully exploits it to his advantage.”
Qanavati said: “Hatamikia’s association with the organization ensures that his films are not censored or banned.”
Qanavati has criticized the Peace Cultural and Media Organization for “producing poor-quality, nonsensical and irrelevant films that lack artistic and aesthetic merits.” According to Qanavati, “a senior military official” controls the organization’s TV output.
Qanavati has alluded to rampant corruption within the organization. He has said: “It is clear that the senior directors of the organization are in no rush to reform their production policy despite the poor quality of their output. They have a vested interest in these expensive film projects. They spend a massive amount of public funding with impunity.”