IRAN: Foreign artists, local cinematic heavyweights shun Tehran film festival
Los Angeles Times / Alexandra Sandels

As Iran kicked off its biggest cinematic and cultural event of the year today, a glaring number of politically motivated no-shows became evident.

Famed British film director Ken Loach (pictured) and theater director Peter Brook, also from the U.K., were among the Western artists originally scheduled to participate in the Fajr International Film Festival who didn't attend amid calls for a boycott over Iran's crackdown on the government opposition.

"It is the request, first and foremost, from the Iranian filmmakers that makes you think and makes you want to support them," the Independent quoted Loach as saying.

"There are many repressive regimes and you can't go on individual boycotts," he said.

"But when the people themselves say, 'Don't come because you will be endorsing the regime that is perpetrating the violence,' you have to stop and think carefully," he added

Over the last few weeks, a statement issued by a group of Iranian cinematographers, actors and artists urging their foreign counterparts to boycott the festival has been widely circulated and posted online.

"Your presence in this year's Fajr festival will be akin to ignoring the struggles of oppressed people of Iran for their rights," read a part of the message.

Loach's film "Looking for Eric" was supposed to be featured in the international section of the festival, and Brook had planned to stage his play "The Grand Inquisitor" at the festival.

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