U.S. Denies Visa To Iranian Director
Kiarostami was to visit Harvard
The embassy denied his visa because, after Sept. 11, Iran was placed on a list of sensitive countries whose citizens are subject to background checks that require about three months to complete.
Kiarostami, who received the Cannes Film Festival’s highest honor in 1997, had planned to premiere the film at a sold-out opening at Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival Sept. 29 and introduce it in person at the Harvard Film Archive (HFA) Oct. 6.
Though Kiarostami knew the background checks could not be completed in time for the debut, he had assumed that because he frequently travels to the U.S., there would be no problem with getting his visa in time, said Graham Leggat, communications director for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which runs the film festival.
“Why is a policy being applied so mindlessly across the board, and not only hurting Iranians but Americans, too?” Leggat said. “Cross-cultural exchange is being stymied by this policy at a time when there might be possible tensions.”
Two other foreign directors, Aki Kaurismaki of Finland and Abderrahmane Sissako of Mauritania cancelled their trips to the film festival in a gesture of solidarity to protest the U.S. government’s actions, Leggat said.
In June, the film festival invited Kiarostami to debut the film.
As he has done before other U.S. visits, including a May 2000 interview at the HFA, Kiarostami waited until a few weeks before the conference to travel to Paris and apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy.
Since there are no U.S. embassies in Tehran, Iranian citizens must apply in other countries to gain U.S. visas.
The HFA assisted Kiarostami in the visa procedure by extending an official invitation, said HFA Assistant Curator Steffen Pierce.
Several people connected with the film festival also made phone calls to attempt to help Kiarostami’s case, Leggat said.
“The irony of all of this is Kiarostami is a very apolitical director,” Pierce said. “His films are really meditations on human dilemmas, and depict the Iranian landscape in a very lyrical, poetic fashion.”
“Under the new international climate, the Bush administration is playing this by the book,” Pierce added.
Kiarostami is also a noted photographer and poet.
The HFA recently published a book of his verse, Walking With the Wind, which it had planned to promote during the director’s visit, Pierce said.
“He does really incredible, fabulous work,” said Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies Giuliana Bruno. “His interest in the everyday life stories, told with great achievement, has fascinated me.”
Though Kiarostami will not be in attendance, the HFA will host its screening of Ten on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. as planned.
Ten will still debut at the film festival.