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As Simple As That Reza Kianian - Los Angeles

As Simple As That

Reza Kianian - Los Angeles


When we took out seats and looked into the eyes of the UCLA audience who were waiting for us at our first face to face session, we still had no idea what we where going to say. The screening of our films had not yet started. We still felt drained after the long trip, and our minds were jetlagged and confused. The moderator of the session was the former President of the Academy Mr. Sid Ganis, who respectfully introduced us to the audience. Because of the tumultuous social situation of Iran, he was worried about possibility of growing tension at the session, and he had also heard about the confiscation of Simin (Fatemeh) and Mojtaba’s passports. Before the session, several members of the audience had asked us about it; we told them how sorry we were about them and they told us how happy they were that we could make it. They all had a lot of questions to ask. They had seen everything on their own TVs and now they wanted to hear about it from us, and as always they wanted to know about censorship. No matter which country we go to, the question is always waiting for us.  


After the introduction, Mr. Ganis asked us to begin. We all turned to look at Farhad Tohidi; he is the spokesman of the Iranian delegation in the US. Calm and collected, Farhad said: “What brings the Iranian and American nations closer together is that both think they are the greatest nation in the world.” The hall erupted in laughter. Farhad went on: “Now, why we are here, and what we want…” And he kept up the humor all through the session. The mood of the hall was noticeably lighter. Everything had a touch of humor about it. We were talking and laughing, the same Iranian humor which helps us out and keeps us going in the toughest situations. We comfortably talked about the most difficult of issues. The bitterness of subjects was sugared by the sweetness of humor. No question was left unanswered. We didn’t evade any question. We simply talked and we were simply accepted. We had found our common language and that’s the magic of the performing art. They applauded us for our clear-cut and humorous answers. They were excited, and so were we. And then there was the ever present question: Censorship… Censorship in the Iranian cinema. 


It was my turn, and I had to answer. I said: “It is harder not to say or show some things in cinema than to say or show them.” I added: “You have of course seen Hitchcock’s Psycho. If the murder scene was shown clearly and vividly, we would have lost one of the best movies of all time. When we are watching that scene, our imagination is working for both the victim and the murderer. We visualize them both. It is our imagination that has made that scene so immortal. And it’s Hitchcock’s ingenuity to manipulate our imagination like that. The love scenes are just like that. If you put the scene right up there, it will be seen only once and only in one way. But if you don’t, it will be imagined as many times as there are viewers. It will multiply and grow by that number. This ‘not showing’ expands the imagination of the director and the viewers.” I gave a few other examples, and explained: “The Iranian cinema has dealt with censorship in a creative fashion. We say it all and show it all, only not on the screens but in your minds. Just like tonight and the way we found a common language. All that I have said so far was in praise of censorship, but we are willing to loan it to you in return for your professional freedoms, so that we could relax for a while.”


The audience clapped and didn’t let go of us even after the session wrapped up. Question after question, until finally the hall controllers separated us. We felt good. The audience did too. Maybe before the session we were trying to come up with some diplomatic answers, but Farhad’s wonderful opening and the laughing enthusiasm of the audience took us away from diplomacy. We went back to what we were, and we talked about what we are. About cinema, people and censorship, about today and tomorrow… as simple as that.


And Reza Mir-Karimi’s film was the perfect ending for the night.





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