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From the February 2002 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 49, No. 2)

Filmmaker on Trial

Tahmineh Milani


Tekla Szymanski
Associate Editor

This could be the test for artistic freedom in Iran: Tahmineh Milani, a renowned feminist filmmaker, is accused of “waging a war against God.” She could face execution.

Amnesty International called her a prisoner of conscience after she was arrested and jailed for seven days in late August (before release on bail pending trial) for her latest film, The Hidden Half. Milani, 41, has been accused by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, of “abusing the arts as a tool for actions” and “support of counterrevolutionary grouplets”—accusations that carry the death sentence.

In fact, Milani is a pawn between the liberalizing policies of President Mohammad Khatami and the fundamentalist hard-liners. Her film was approved officially and it is still being shown in Tehran. Even President Khatami publicly came to Milani’s rescue, in direct opposition to the clerics, supporting her release on bail. Milani, however, still faces prosecution.

The Hidden Half focuses on a dutiful wife who reveals to her husband her hidden past as an activist in opposition to the Iranian revolution of 1979. Milani’s persecution began after the London-based Hambastegi, a publication of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees, published an interview, in which she acknowledged that her film depicted a reality she had lived. “[Milani] has taken greater risks than her better-known contemporaries, rarely cloaking her messages in allegorical terms and frequently speaking about her work in public,” wrote Steve Ross in Johannesburg’s Mail & Guardian. Now, Milani’s case could become a victory in Khatami’s drive for reforms. Or it could leave this outspoken filmmaker out in the cold.


 
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