Berlinale Calls for Iran to Allow Directors to Attend Festival

The Berlin Film Festival has called on Iran to allow directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha to leave the country to attend the world premiere of their new film My Favorite Cake, which has been selected to screen in competition at the 74th Berlinale.

In a statement Thursday, the festival said that they have learned that Moghaddam and Sanaeeha have been banned from traveling, have had their passports confiscated by Iranian authorities, and face a court trial connected to their work as artists and filmmakers.

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Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha on the set of 'My Favourite Cake'
Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha on the set of ‘My Favourite Cake’

“The Berlinale is a festival fundamentally committed to freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of the arts, for all people around the world and the festival is shocked and dismayed to learn that Moghaddam and Sanaeeha could be prevented from traveling to the festival to present their film and meet their audience in Berlin,” Berlinale directors Carlo Chatrian und Mariëtte Rissenbeek said in a statement. “We call for the Iranian authorities to return the passports and to end all restrictions preventing Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha from freely traveling to Berlin this February, together with the other international directors and filmmaking talents from around the world, so they can present their new film My Favourite Cake as part of the Berlinale’s 2024 competition.”

Moghaddam and Sanaeeha have history with the Berlinale. Their last film, Ballad of a White Cow, screened in competition in Berlin in 2021. My Favourite Cake was backed by the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund, and was developed in part at the 2020 Berlinale co-production market, where it won the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award.

Iranian cinema, particularly dissident cinema, has long had pride of place at the German festival. Mohammad Rasoulof’s There Is No Evil won Berlin’s Golden Bear for best film in 2020. Jafar Panahi’s Taxi took the Berlinale’s top prize in 2015. The Iranian regime blocked both men from leaving the country to attend the festival. Last year, the Berlinale said it would not accredit any companies or media outlets with direct ties to the Iranian government, extending a ban the festival imposed on Russian state-backed companies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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