Kaveh Daneshmand: “The Iranian regime is afraid of art because it can change people’s hearts”

What was the selection criteria for this 2023 edition?

Kaveh Dashemand |  Photo: Barbora Linková, ČRo

“We have selected all the high-quality films that the regime hates! It sounds political, but this year we had to take a stand. We wanted great films made by Iranian directors in prison, great films made by directors in exile, great films made by directors banned by the regime for years. »

Does this festival raise awareness about the situation in Iran? Can cinema be a tool for political action?

“It can certainly become a tool for political action, but that’s not our goal. The purpose of cinema is cinema itself. If this year’s theme is political, it does not mean that we are using these films to fight the regime. Above all, we try to raise awareness through joint events: question-and-answer sessions, workshops, planting trees as a tribute to the rebellion. »

“For ten years, we have wanted to show the Czechs that we Iranians cannot reduce our country to the image that paints it. To say that the people are like their government is too simple, and in many cases it is true. But we are at a decisive moment in the history of Iran, when the majority of the population is against this regime. That’s why the public is very happy every time we welcome guests. This allows him to see how open-minded, cultured, progressive and educated we are like him. »

Why do you think dictatorships are afraid of freedom of expression, art, cinema, cartoons?

“Frankly, I think these people are stupid and primitive. They come from another era. Plus, if they allowed artists to express themselves, they would hate them less than they do now. Art touches the human heart. And once you win someone’s heart, it’s yours too. This is how art changes the world. Other forms of communication, say education, philosophy, reach the mind. But art starts from the heart and penetrates the brain. And the Iranian regime fears art because it can change people’s hearts. These people have nothing to do with art. They do not understand the finer points of life. »

But if art does not win their hearts, what does?

“That’s a big question! What do they do, what do they watch, what do they listen to? I do not know. To be honest, the art supported by the Iranian government is filthy, intolerable. Music is mediocre pop culture. The cinema they produce is a joke. There is no painting or fine art. They probably have things in their lives that replace art. But it is hard to believe that they have the ability to listen to serious music or participate in interesting exhibitions. I think it really goes over their heads. »

What do you think about the reaction of the Czechs to the situation in your country? There were protests a few months ago, but do you still feel that support?

“The last few years have been chaotic. The pandemic and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine have affected many people around the world, especially in this region. Therefore, I understand that the Czechs have other priorities. They know what is happening in Iran, even if it is not in the headlines. I think it is normal, especially because of the distance between the two countries. »

“However, I think there is still an information gap. Sometimes my friends and even relatives tell me that by the way, what is happening in Iran? As if something had happened recently, but they were a little suspicious. We hope that we will be able to solve this during the festival: for four months, Iranians have been tortured, raped, arrested, killed in the streets. This is the first time they are fighting against the foundation of this regime. It’s not just ‘something’. This is a great message from the Iranian people to the world, “We don’t want this regime anymore and we need international support to change it.” »

You posted the following message on Facebook: “On the road to a better future with much anger, much hope! Do you think we have already reached the breaking point of the regime? Can we already perceive the beginning of his fall?

“This is a difficult question. It’s not my discipline, but at least I can give my opinion. I think autumn has already started. Now on one side there is a regime armed to the teeth – with machine guns, tanks, oil, money, allies like China, Russia. Insanely brutal forces roam the streets. On the other side, there is a desolate nation with nothing but hope. The fight isn’t necessarily even, so I don’t know when the enemy will be. But I’m sure it will happen. My logic says so, History says so. This diet is no exception. Many dictatorships have collapsed: if not this year, then next. If not next year, then in five years. »

“I don’t know how, but we all have to do what we can to speed things up. Because we shed blood. We don’t just waste money, energy or time. We invest in the lives of children, teenagers and the elderly. The regime kills indiscriminately. They even attack primary schools, you know. »

What specific measures should be taken? Applying financial penalties?

“The Iranian regime must be completely isolated. Cut off all the economic ties it feeds on. Those who saw Persepolis understood how our history was influenced by the West. We know the role the latter played in the 1952 coup and the 1979 revolution.

“Iran is the world’s second source of oil. It is the fourth largest natural resource reserve in the world. It is a very rich country located in the heart of one of the most geopolitically sensitive regions of the world. It is a source of tension in the Middle East, which means that there is a lot of arms trafficking in its territory. His conflicts with Saudi Arabia, Israel and God are perfect material for many Western industries. Then the question is, when will the life of Iranians become more important than business? »

Are you planning to return to Iran?

“I came here with the idea of ​​studying and then returning home because I wanted to make my first film in Iran. Then I met some friends, we started talking about the festival, and over time I realized that I was not going to make this film in my country. It is interesting that I did not shoot the film in the Czech Republic, but in France last year. »

“In 2022, I visited Iran five times. I interact with people there regularly, my whole family and some of my best friends live there. I grew up in Iran and left there when I was 28. Therefore, it is impossible to imagine life without my country. But if I go back after this publication, I may have problems. After that, organizing this festival is the bare minimum. My inability to return to Iran is meaningless compared to the loss of life. »

the Iranian Film Festival It happens January 11-15 In Prague Světozor, Lucerna and Bio Oko cinemas. It will take place later January 17-19 for The Art of Cinema From Brno. trees will be planted by Susan Taslimi and Anna Sabatova Saturday, January 14 at noon Letna Park.

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