Iran’s late-night Ramadan screenings spark outrage among clerics

August 15, 2010 - 0:0

Tehran -- Clerics have raised objections to the Azan to Azan project, a program for screening films in large Iranian cities until late at night during the month of Ramadan.

The project was initiated by movie theater owners in Tehran last year after they obtained approval from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
The program was established to lessen the loss of box office receipts during the month, which is the slow season for Iranian cinema.
Providing a powerful lineup for this year, the ministry has extended the project to Ahvaz, Rasht, and several other cities, with movie theaters scheduled to run the project’s films from 3 pm to 3 past midnight.
“Is there any control on cinemas that encourage people to watch films during Ramadan instead of praying and supplicating?” Mashhad Friday prayer leader Seyyed Ahmad Alamolhoda said on Friday.
He asked city officials to put a halt to the project and added, “They have created entertainment to prevent people from contemplating about God and the Quran.”
The Khorramabad Friday prayer leader described Azan to Azan as “an anti-mosque” project.
“We have exerted our utmost efforts to draw people into mosques during the month of Ramadan while another organization is trying to draw people into movie houses,” Seyyed Ahmad Miremadi said on Friday.
Movie theaters owned by the Art Bureau, an affiliate of the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization, declined to participate in the project, which screens acclaimed Iranian films produced over the past three decades.
Culture Ministry Supervision and Evaluation Office (SEO) Director Alireza Sajjadpur said that he was not in agreement with the project.
This year’s Azan to Azan began after cinema owners requested a resumption of the project, he added.
According to cinema owners, the screenings were warmly welcomed during Ramadan last year.
“On one night during last year’s program, over 40 members of a single family, including grandmothers and grandfathers, all of them together attended a screening of a film,” Tehran’s Mellat Cinema Complex director Amir-Hossein Alamolhoda told the Persian service of ISNA on Saturday.
Despite the enthusiasm of theater owners, other religious figures are expected to join with opponents of the Azan to Azan project in the upcoming days.
Over the past decade, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) has also prepared a lineup of special TV series for Ramadan.
Last year, a number of clerics criticized IRIB for screening the TV series. They said they believed that the broadcasts kept people at home, preventing them from attending religious programs in mosques.
Four serials ranging from comedy to melodrama also have been prepared for broadcast on IRIB’s various channels during this year’s Ramadan.