Interview with the director of "Red
Lines and Deadlines"
September 28, 2004
Taghi Amirani's documentary on journalism and
censorship in Iran, "Red
Lines and Deadlines", aired on U.S.
television (PBS) last Thursday, September 23. It will be repeated
at local PBS stations, including Tuesday the 28th at 10 pm on KCET
in Los Angeles (listed under its old title
of the News That's Fit to Print". Check your local listings. Here are
his replies to an email interview. -- J. Javid
Iran has been struggling with censorship
for decades. Was there a
particular event which drove you to make this documentary?
I had been looking for a subject for my first documentary
back home for a while. Shargh newspaper caught my eye
at the newsstands in Tehran in February and after meeting its
it became clear that this had to be it.
I was looking for something
positive to make a film about, and the young talented journalists
at Shargh are
the most inspirational group of Iranians I have met. I was
keen to show Iranians in a different way to the
usual portrayal in Western media.
In the process of making this
film, you have come across many journalists working in a
very difficult situation. In fact Iran has been given the infamous
title of the world's worst offender of free speech rights.
gives these journalists hope? What makes them
A love for Iran and a firm belief in peaceful non-confrontational
and gradual move towards democracy, without outside interference.
What did the journalists you interviewed have to say about
the Khatami era, which is about to come to an end next spring
with new presidential elections? The initial high hopes, and
the eventual crackdown?
They're grateful that Khatami's election
triggered the birth of the reformist press but that's as
far as it goes. They no longer see a connection between him and
them and have no allegiance to him. They say the reformist
press is in retreat but will be back.
What do you make
of the existing
Iranian press, the legal newspapers and magazines? How
diverse are they? What are some of the
I am afraid I am not an expert on the full range of Iranian
press. My focus was on Shargh only. However, I noticed a good
range of sports and movie magazines and quite a few newspapers.
I didn't get to read any of them.
We hear a lot about "civil society", and how
we need it in order to create a democracy. How important is the
journalists in the effort
to build a civil society? Are people paying attention or are they too busy
with the basic hardships of everyday life?
Newspaper circulation has dropped dramatically. They say people
don't turn to papers for news. Those who can turn to the internet.
However, it's in the social affairs arena that Shargh journalists
believe they can play an effective role. Build a civil society
from grass roots up. Cultural reform right across the society.
Evolution, not revolution.
Tell us one good story from your trip.
Can't pick one. I would say the time I spent with the Shargh team, the entire shooting trip, was the most stimulating, invigorating
and inspiring time I have had as a filmmaker. Making some films
change you and give you hope. "Red
Lines and Deadlines" was
definitely one of those.
What do you want your viewers to
take with them after seeing your
Pride in some intelligent, brave and committed young journalists
who are the future of Iran.