|No entry for Kiarostami
New visa regulations for Iranians prevent filmmaker from getting
a U.S. visa
By Jacques Mandelbaum
September 21, 2002
Source: Le Monde
Obtaining a U.S. visa has never been easy. Everyone understands that in the current
climate the situation has not been improved, especially not if someone is coming
Hence, the following misadventure may be seen as a self-evident tale, were it not
that it befell one of the world's greatest filmmakers, Abbas Kiarostami who was invited
to present on his lastest film, Ten, on September 28 at one of the most respectable
American establishments, the New York International Film Festival, as well as at
Ohio University in Columbus, and Harvard University in Boston.
The film was released in France on September 18. Abbas Kiarostami is in Paris for
the film's release. At the U.S. consulate, he hurtled into the new security measures
undertaken by the American State Department for protection against terrorism. These
considerably lengthen the process required for obtaining a U.S. visa for those originating
from specific countries.
Jack Lang, alerted to the situation by the film's producer, Marin Karmitz, attempted
to mediate vis a vis the American authorities by writing to Howard Leach, the U.S.
ambassador, on September 11. This proved to be fruitless. On September 16 he received
a response from the consulate arguing that "the rules in place require an obligatory
interview with the person seeking a visa followed by a six to eight-week delay while
administrative formalities are followed and the file is examined."
When asked by Le Monde whether a filmmaker of
such stature, who needs no lesson in humanism, could be offered a more reasonable
examination of his file, "The response is no," Richard Lankford, the Embassy's
press officer confirmed.
This sad situation, which according to Jack Lang, bears witness to "an intellectual
isolationism and an ignorance verging on scorn for other cultures" and that
has enraged Marin Karmitz has ellicited an infinitely more Iranian letter to Richard
Pena, the director of the New York film festival from Kiarostami to "justify"
At least Kiarostami will have escaped the terrible fate that befell his compatriot
Jafar Panahi, the recipient of the Venice Golden Lion in 2000 for his film The
Circle. Having arrived in New York in May 2001 to receive the Award for Freedom
of Expression, he was immediately thrown in prison and then summarily expelled from
the country without any legal due process ["What
would Terry say?"].
This front-page article, translated by Dorna Khazeni, appeared in the September
20, 2002, issue of Le Monde in Paris.