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Seyed Reza Salehi Amiri at the press conference, February 14
Seyed Reza Salehi Amiri at the press conference, February 14

Culture Minister Responds to Queries on Challenges in the Field

Salehi Amiri was queried about the ministry’s position on the treasured collection of TMoCA, banned movies, veteran traditional singer Mohammadreza Shajarian, Fajr Film Festival controversies and theater budget among other art and cultural matters

Culture Minister Responds to Queries on Challenges in the Field

The display of artworks from the treasured collection of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMoCA) scheduled for last December at the Gemalde Galerie, an art museum in Berlin, was temporarily halted “due to the legal ambiguity raised by legal experts,” said Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Seyed Reza Salehi Amiri, on Tuesday.

The official, who replaced the previous minister Ali Jannati less than 100 days ago, was addressing his first press conference for reporters at the ministry’s building in Tehran. 

At the event, Salehi Amiri was queried about the ministry’s position towards different art and cultural matters; the treasured collection of TMoCA, movies ‘Sofa’ and ‘Hussein Who Said No’, the veteran traditional singer Mohammadreza Shajarian, and theater budget, ISNA reported.

According to a contract between TMoCA and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Germany, the artworks were to be displayed at the Berlin exhibit but the process was suspended by Salehi Amiri on November 22, just three weeks after he became minister, as he said the matter needed “more investigations.”

Elaborating on the issue, he said, “It is a common among world famous museums to hold exhibitions of one another’s work, but in this particular case, a legal ambiguity was raised by legal experts so I stopped the process.” 

On Iran’s demand, the German government guaranteed the maintenance and restoration of the works. “Later, we placed the issue on the agenda of the government. It should be considered by a specialized commission but nothing has been decided yet. Whenever they decide to send or permanently cancel the exhibit of works outside the country, we will announce it,” Salehi Amiri underlined.

  Banned Films

‘Hussein Who Said No’ directed by Ahmadreza Darvish was shown at the 32nd Fajr Film Festival (FFF) in 2014 but since then has not been screened for the public. It is based on the life of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shia Imam and the events of Ashura, (when Imam and his 72 companions were martyred). However, there is disagreement between the director and some authorities on a few points including depicting the face of Hazrat Abbas (Imam’s brother) which according to some Maraji (sources of emulation) is not allowed.

“After meetings with the three prominent figures in this field and Darvish, an initial understanding was reached. Darvish will announce the decision,” the minister noted.

One of the movies not accepted at the 35th FFF (ended last week) was the new film by veteran filmmaker Kianoush Ayari titled ‘The Sofa’. It was rejected by the selection committee as it, reportedly, depicted women without hijab, (headscarf), although the director said the women in the film were wearing wigs.

Stating the issue “jurisprudential”, the minister said there “will be a session with Ayari and cinema officials to find a solution to the problem.”

In addition to the selection of films in the 35th FFF, the final choice of the winners was also a matter of controversy among the cineastes, who accused the jurors of unfair and biased decisions in the nomination of winners.

Speaking on the issue, the official said, “I believe there are flaws in this area which needed to be removed.” He pointed out that the festival organizers welcome constructive criticism but “will not heed destructive attempts made by a few people.”

“My senior advisor will meet the head of Organization of Iran Cinema Hojatollah Ayoubi to investigate the charges,” he added.

  On Shajarian’s Concert

A veteran singer of Iranian classical music, Shajarian is a popular figure among Iranians. Although living in Iran, it is about eight years since he has not been permitted to hold a concert in the country due to some of his political opinions.

When asked if he will be allowed to perform in Iran, Salehi Amiri replied, “By issuing the permit for his album we have conveyed our message that Master Shajarian is a great figure of art and culture in the country and we honor him and wish him good health.”

After lots of complaints about the inadequate funds for theater by the people involved in the art, the minister had recently said that theater budget will be increased in the next fiscal year (starts March 21). To a question on which section of theater would see a budget rise, he said, “Our emphasis is on theater groups and infrastructure priorities, particularly in towns, and I assure you that doubling the theater budget is certain in the next year.”

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