Program Type: 
Iran Beyond Censorship
March 20, 2011 - March 27, 2011
Screening Room


As if things couldn’t get worse for Iranian artists, world-renowned filmmaker Jafar Panahi has just been sentenced to six years in prison and banned from making films for twenty years. His crime? Making an 'anti-regime film,' referring to a work–in–progress dealing with the 2009 re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the subsequent protests. Panahi had been an outspoken critic of the proceedings, and was arrested for taking part in the mourning for protesters killed after the disputed election. He was soon released but denied permission to leave the country. In February 2010, he was again arrested with his family and colleagues. His prison sentence was announced in December.

As an accompaniment to the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, we present Panahi’s two newest features, both of which are banned in Iran. Offside will be preceded by the eight-minute short The Accordion, his last finished film before his arrest, about two child beggars. And, on the heels of its 20th anniversary, we present a new 35mm print of Close-Up, a landmark work in Iranian cinema by master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, who also wrote the screenplay for Panahi’s Crimson Gold. Finally, at the last-minute, we've added a screening of The White Meadows, a surreal political allegory by Panahi's colleague Mohammad Rasoulof, who also received a six-year prison sentence.

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  • Offside*
    Mar 20, 2011 1:00pm
    Screening Room

    By Jafar Panahi
    It is illegal for females to attend soccer matches in Iran. In Offside, a disparate group of girls, united only by their desire to see their beloved team play live, disguise themselves as boys, risking arrest to try to get into the game. All of them are caught and taken to a holding area, where they are tortured by being able to hear the roar of the crowd without being able to see what is happening in the match. (2006, 93 min, 35mm)

    *Offside is preceded by The Accordion, Panahi's last finished film before his arrest, about two child beggars. (2010, 8 min, digital)

  • Close-Up
    Mar 25, 2011 6:30pm
    Mar 26, 2011 2:00pm
    Screening Room
    new 35mm Print

    by Abbas Kiarostami
    Internationally revered Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami has created some of the most inventive and transcendent cinema of the last thirty years, and Close–Up is his most radical work. This fiction–documentary hybrid uses a real–life sensational event - a young man arrested on charges that he fraudulently impersonated a well–known filmmaker - as the basis for a multi-layered investigation into cinema, identity, and the artistic process. With its universal themes and strange narrative knots, Close–Up continues to resonate with viewers. (1990, 97 min, 35mm)

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  • Crimson Gold
    Mar 27, 2011 1:00pm
    Screening Room

    by Jafar Panahi
    A murder and a suicide occur early one morning in a jewelry store. Behind this headline lies the story of a desperate man’s feelings of humiliation in a world of social injustice. Hussein’s job delivering pizzas allows him a full view of the contrast between rich and poor. Every night he delivers to neighborhoods he will never live in, but Hussein will taste the luxurious life for just one night. Screenplay by Abbas Kiarostami. (2003, 95 min, 35mm)

  • The White Meadows
    Mar 27, 2011 3:00pm
    Screening Room

    Introductory remarks by Peter Coyote
    By Mohammad Rasoulof
    Though he has received less attention because his work is not as well known in the West, filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof was sentenced alongside Panahi to six years in prison. The charges were "assembly, collusion, and propagandizing against the regime.” We present his newest film, edited by Panahi. In this dreamlike yet earthbound work, a boatman navigates the waters of a surreal coastal land, collecting the tears of its inhabitants. Profoundly hypnotic, the film can be read as an allegory of intolerance, brutality and mystified routine that resonates far beyond any one state’s borders. (2009, 93 min, 35mm)

    The White Meadows is co-presented by the Global Film Initiative and is part of the Global Lens 2011 film series. For more information, visit

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Curator Statement

Iran, until fairly recently, has had one of the richest film cultures in the world. My first exposure to it was over fifteen years ago, with Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s stunning Salaam Cinema. I had never seen anything like this before. I knew little about this strange country. It pains me to admit that about all I 'knew' was that they were evil and we hated them. After I discovered their cinema…well, guess again. It was mind-boggling to experience this work, which often combined radical formal experimentation, disguised social commentary, and exquisitely beautiful imagery. Even the colors seemed more intense than anything I’d seen before. Iranian cinema has changed. There are many reasons for this, but certainly their current, dire political situation plays a heavy hand – plainly illustrated with Jafar Panahi’s recent conviction. His conviction is a gross violation of one of YBCA’s core beliefs – total freedom of opinion and expression in the arts. In support of him, we are presenting his two latest works, in addition to a landmark film in Iranian cinema history, finally available in a new 35mm print. Much like the 2011 Human Rights Watch Film Festival, our screenings of Panahi and Kiarostami’s work deeply addresses our 'Encounter' Big Idea. This is art engaging the social context – and paying a heavy price for doing so.

— Joel Shepard, Film/Video Curator

YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
The San Francisco Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Koret Foundation
Adobe Foundation Fund

YBCA Film/Video media sponsor:
SF Weekly