No green light for “Book of Law” foreign premiere

December 14, 2009

TEHRAN -- Iranian cultural officials are opposed to any plan seeking a foreign screening of “The Book of Law”, a comedy that finds conflicts between Islamic law and the ethics of some Iranians.

Directed by Maziar Miri in 2007, the film is currently on screen in Iranian movie theaters. Iranian stage director and playwright Mohammad Rahmanian wrote the screenplay based on a plot by Miri.
Cultural officials have argued that a foreign premiere of the film would supply the Western media with additional source material to further misrepresent the reality about Iranian Muslims.
The film tells the story of Rahman, an Iranian man working for an Islamic studies center in Tehran. He takes part in a mission to Lebanon, where he meets a Christian woman named Juliet Khamsa.
Rahman marries Juliet following her conversion to Islam and then the couple returns to Tehran to live with her husband’s family. Juliet, who has been renamed Ameneh, discovers many contradictions between what members of Rahman’s traditional family and other Iranians do and say in their daily lives and what is mentioned in the Quran.
Juliet is unable to tolerate the contradictions and consequently leaves Tehran for her homeland to teach refugees in a Lebanese school.
“This film presents a negative image of Iranians for foreign filmgoers while the reality is quite different from what the film shows,” Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Hosseini told the Persian service of IRNA on Sunday.
“The film has few positive aspects and according to critics, it places a blemish on Iranian society,” he added.
“For this reason, screenings of films like ‘The Book of Law’ are limited to domestic premieres,” Hosseini stated.
A screenplay must be approved by the Culture Ministry to obtain a production license in Iran. In addition, the film’s producer must apply for a screening license from the ministry for a domestic or foreign premiere.
“From my viewpoint, it would be inappropriate for the film to be shown to a non-Iranian audience, because it presents a false image of Iranian culture and society,” Deputy Culture Minister for Cinematic Affairs Javad Shamaqdari said in press conference last week.
Although no license has been issued for “The Book of Law” to participate in international events, it was screened at the Hong Kong International Film Festival in March 2009 and was nominated for the Best Asian-Middle Eastern Film Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival in October 2009.
The head of the Cultural Committee of the Iranian Majlis believes that it is impractical to restrict the screening of a film “due to encroachment of cultural boundaries.”
“A film that can be screened in Iran, can be shown anywhere in the world,” Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel said.
The Culture Ministry had originally refused to grant a screening license for the Iranian premiere of “The Book of Law”, although it had already approved the screenplay.
Photo: Iranian actor Parviz Parastuii as Rahman and Lebanese actress Darine Hamze as Ameneh (Juliet) in a scene of “The Book of Law”