I believe in freedom of speech and the power of documentary film. If any film festival delayed or suppressed one of its entries due to political reasons, I would condemn such an action. So when a film festival gives in to pressure to “spare the feelings” of the president of Iran, I feel obliged to point out a couple reasons why such thoughtfulness is absurdly misplaced.

The Beirut International Film Festival canceled, or at least delayed, the screening of a docudrama—“Green Days”—that provides a close-up look at the protests and government brutality that accompanied Iran’s 2009 presidential election. In other words, the same election that proved a dubious confirmation of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s power. Hana Makhmalbaf’s “Green Days” already aired at well-known film festivals in Toronto, Copenhagen, and Venice, where the film won “The Bravery Prize.” The reason the film has won this prize and others stems from its willingness to stand up to the Iranian government, even including amateur film of the public demonstrations during the elections.

Then President Ahmadinejad decided to visit Lebanon, and such a screening became inconvenient. According to the festival’s director, censorship authorities pressured the festival to postpone its screening. Such a move represents the sort of kindness and personal touch one seldom sees these days. How thoughtful of the Lebanese government: Ahmadinejad decides to take two precious days out of his busy schedule of oppression in Iran for a visit; the least Lebanon could do would be to censor anything that might trouble such a devoted, hardworking leader.


Hands in the Jar