“Religion overcasts on Iran’s sky like an octopus and people are controlled like stitch dolls, if anybody speaks something athwart is condemned to execution and easily done so”, says this Iranian independent film maker.
The melancholy director, a campaigner for women’s right and secular democracy in Iran explains the truth behind a moral society.
Emir Hasanpor, born in Kurdish Iranian city Mahabad grew up watching the option of suicide as the ultimate liberty for women under a strict patriarchal government.
Hasanpor a Marxist activist and a Trade Unionists experienced inhuman torture in prison and watched his peers walking in to the execution platform started to create street theatre and underground independent short films to reflect the fierceness of a moral society.
Hasanpor begun to attract students and female audiences and months of imprisonment, torture, gun shots and knife attacks from political extremists did not stop him from discussing religion and politics through visual art.
Hasanpor was expelled from University of Payam Noor Mahabad for his extensive interest in global cinema and Marxixt approach and as a Liberal Art student in Institute of Young Cinema, in Tehran Hasanpor created the short film “Dominant”. The film was exhibited in varied public places as a non conventional cinema.
“Most of the viewers were students and women often were in tears afterwards as they could relate to the topic more than the male audiences” says Hasanpor.
The viewing of the film brought Hasanpor’s life under threat however he is determined to fight his battles. The Prisma asked Hasanpor about his experience in Islamic regime of Iran:
Why politics and what is the relation between politics and cinema?
Growing up I have vividly experienced self-immolation of women, forced marriages, rape and slavery of the common people made me scream internally for freedom. Marxism and Socialist theories are in abundance in minds and I saw leftist movement has the greatest potential for secular democracy.
I have spent majority of my time in Tehran for cinema and Theatre and world cinema was a pleasure from early childhood. However my interest in politics is not a reflection of my notion of entertainment, but from the sheer loathe of the ruling regime. The oppressive regime made me stopped seeing cinema as an isolated entertainment venue. In fact I see cinema style as a reflection of reality surrounding me and I formed a desire to create promising cinema and bring awareness in my people.
I could choose another subject with no risk and have the pleasure of film making solely. But I want to question when one sees tears everyday and lives under torture can one create anything but a film about inhumanity? I was told the film was shown in public places and at least it increased women’s abhorrence against patriarchy and the regime’s autarky. As Gouder says “We should combat by film and don’t stop trying to arrive to our ideal”.
Iranian media creates a constructed reality. It is quite easy to gain fame in the media as long as one complies with the currant propaganda.
Producing film is a complicated issue and to portray true reflection one has to have advanced research and historical knowledge to understand the psychology of what governs the society.
He has to be engaged in philosophical thoughts and know the difference between philosophies and doctrinal oppression. The Dominant is with revolutionary ideas of engaging in philosophical mutiny.
What is the “Dominant” talking about?
The film is a reminder of the women who were raped in prisons and died under torture. There is a monologue; a combination of two frames that show dogs and human engaging in sexual act. When humanity gives its meaning away we cannot prevent the animalistic instincts in us. Inhumanity is a condition governs Iran and forced sex is approved for men to enjoy.
The film is in refuge for human dignity. I created it because I experienced the inhumanity. In an Islamic regime all members of the society are victims and the fear of execution has penetrated the society; in fact women receive the greatest brunt from the government.
My film talks about trapped angels; the viewers encounter the constructed prison the Iranian mass live in. Iran is isolated and closed and its people are trapped angels.
How would you describe Iranian political regime?
After the Arab attack and Islamisation of Persia thirteen hundred years ago women were converted into sex slaves to satisfy men’s desire. In fact during Pahlavi’s age, the secularist Shah’s reign up to 1970s women didn’t enjoy freedom of thoughts and social equality either. The only difference between secular Iran and Islamic Iran is the secularists didn’t wear the Hijab (head covering of women). We have the Shia and the Sunni Muslims, both sectors are in disparity and yet with worst ideologies concerning women’s existence.
Shia and Sunni are two strong tools to empowering the Islamic Republic and they are the most reactionary apparatus forming discriminative laws for women controlling their marriage, divorce, work and sexual rights to every day decisions. There is the hypocritical notion that women are the only medium through which moral of the society infringes. The impression of women in the sex industry is embalmed into the minds of the moral regulators. Why? As if men are not responsible of creating the sex industry?
As we have seen in any society whenever religion entered into politics and government the society became a dictatorship. Religion overcasts on Iran’s sky like an octopus and people are controlled like stitch dolls, if anybody speaks something athwart is condemned to execution and so easily done too.
This doesn’t necessarily apply to Islam but to any religion; ones acquired enough power to enter into politics religion would control all the organs of the society. In Iran “Sepah Pasdaran” means guard’s army as agents of jury consult warden. Iran’s leaders “Sepah Pasdaran” control all organs of the society such as culture, art, military and politics. One has to pass the Islamic republic’s censorship’s hatch to portray reality in cinema. Hence the blame is not unto neither on interpretation nor on a specific religion however on religion that’s used as a tool of totalitarian political control.
Why it is important for a revolutionary man to campaign for women’s rights and what is your response to the view that some women are happy within the Sharia law?
Actually women’s issue is not an exceptional subject in any form of struggle in the world. The movement of the oppressed and women’s effort to find human right is synonym for each other. Women are aware that this issue of modernization from barbarism and feudalism applies to all cultural revolutions. If you observe carefully you will find women pay the cost for the patriarchal rules in both United States and in the Middle East. This is why if you denote my films, you will find women’s issue and human rights issue are interrelated and in my last short film The Dominant women are presented as men’s libido used as tools of repression.
Vividly experiencing self-immolation of women the issue here is only about humanity. It is not about self indulgent or finding specific interest. My age or gender is merely a factor here. In my point of view women are not angels, mothers, sisters or goddesses. Women are human beings and I am appealing for human dignity.
Submission to Sharia Law is not specific to women; actually it is about self awareness and the conditions that people have arrived from. An autocratic authority will enter the scene with the ingenious devious motto of democratization of the society and promise the mass that they will reach their life and spiritual fulfilment through submission.
What was the reaction of the film and some may argue you have brought the trouble unto yourself.
After screening the “Dominant” the Sunni extremist group Salafi attacked me on the street with gun shots and left me wounded with knife attacks. My life is under threat but no bully leaves an impact on me.
In Iranian tradition the father governs the household and my family is not exempt from this rule.
My political affiliation and film productions always caused confliction between my family and me however I see them living under a forced social condition and I do not blame them for aloofness.
Every defiant man loves his life and fights for it. But as murder and severe torture is panacea for the non conformists I cannot create anything else but imagining relieving women from the fork of patriarchy. Imagine women are not merchandise anymore and imagine men are free to make choices. Execution is pandemic, the government is scaring people and if I was timorous I would stop battling long time ago.
I was captivated by the images of Tarkovsky, Godard, Ray, Kovrasava, Ayzenshtain and Gonay and I wondered is cinema only for aesthetic thirsts? Cinema should be committed to service people like Godard and Pasolini’s images do and I don’t intend to make anti-Iran or anti-Islam cinema, I want to make cinema about humanity and my depiction of my world are the panorama for global audience.
Let us continue to combat against despotism, for freedom of thoughts and expression and equality of human beings.
(The Prisma’ memoirs. November, 2012)