Berlin 2013: Politics in Focus as Festival Kicks Off

The Berlin festival is proud of its position as the most political of the big film festivals, and this year, German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann used the opening night event as a platform for a political appeal to the government of Iran.

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After evoking the lessons learned in Germany from 12 years of Nazi dictatorship and suppression of freedom of speech, Neumann called on Tehran to lift its travel ban on Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi and allow him to travel to Berlin for the world premiere of his latest film, Closed Curtain, next week.

“There can be no democracy without the freedom of creative expression,” Neumann said.

Panahi is under house-arrest in Tehran, and the regime has banned him from working as a director for 20 years as punishment for his involvement in the anti-government Green Movement protests in Iran in 2009. Panahi, who won a Silver Bear in Berlin for Offside in 2006, was supposed to be part of the Berlin jury two years ago but was prevented from leaving the country. Despite living under house-arrest, he secretly shot Closed Curtain together with director Kambuzia Partovi and had the film smuggled out of the country to compete in Berlin.

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