Iran censors hand Offside a red card

An Iranian film director has again fallen foul of the Islamic republic's censors, this time with a light-hearted critique of a ban on women going to football matches.

    Women have been barred from football matches since 1979

    Jafar Panahi, 46, said he had not heard from Iranian censorship authorities for his Offside film.

    The film depicts a group of girls who disguise themselves as boys in an attempt to watch their national side qualify for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

    "I have been waiting for permission ... but they've not said  yes or even no," said Panahi, referring to a censorship process where films deemed unsuitable tend to be lost forever in the  government's bureaucracy.
      
    "Most of my films talk about restrictions imposed on human beings, and here women are more restricted than men. So I used soccer as a means to show the restrictions," said the director.
      
    "I chose the title since the term is a punitive measure for trying to score illegally, and the girls in my film are also trying  to get into the stadium illegally," Panahi said.

    Stadium ban

    Iranian women have been barred from football matches since the 1979 Islamic revolution, and a recent step by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president, to end the ban was vetoed by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    Iranian women in a protest last
    year over gender discrimination

    Religious leaders had argued that women in stadiums was a recipe for disaster, given that they would see "bare legs" and hear the profanities shouted by male fans.
      
    Panahi's tribute to Iranian women fans scored a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year.
      
    Panahi's previous works have won prizes in foreign film festivals, including a Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his 1995 work The White Balloon, a Venice Golden Lion in 2000 for The Circle and the Cannes jury prize in 2003 for Crimson Gold.
      
    The Circle, which paints a grim picture of life for women in Iran, also failed to win government approval for screening in Iran, while censors cut about a dozen scenes from Crimson Gold.
      
    "I prefer for my films to be allowed to be screened publicly here, and do not end up like The Circle," said Panahi, still apparently hopeful that Offside will beat the odds and win  approval.

    SOURCE: AFP


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