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 from Iran.
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” his absence.
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.