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Tehran's Movie Critics

Authorities in Iran have barred Golshifteh Farahani, an Iranian actress, from leaving the country. The twenty-five-year-old film star was reportedly headed to a meeting with Hollywood agents and film directors in Los Angeles when she was stopped by Iranian officials. Ms. Farahani recently appeared in Body of Lies, a new film which has apparently provoked the ire of the Tehran regime.

According Iran's news agency Ms. Farahani failed to obtain the regime's permission to take in part in the film. She is the first Iranian actress to star in a Hollywood movie.

Golshifteh Farahani is not the first Iranian film artist to be prevented from traveling abroad by the Iranian regime. On February 27, 2007, authorities arrested French-Iranian filmmaker Mehrnoushe Solouki for "intent to commit propaganda against the regime." Ms. Solouki was researching a film on the burial practices of some of Iran's religious minorities when she discovered a mass grave outside Tehran. The grave reportedly contained the remains of thousands of political prisoners executed by the regime in 1988. In November 2007, she was put on trial. After a month in Evin prison, she was released, but denied permission to leave the country.

In its human rights report on Iran, the U.S. State Department says that during 2007, the Tehran regime "effectively censored domestic films," since it remained the main source of production funding. Producers were required to submit scripts and film proposals to government officials in advance of funding approval."

Following President Ahmadi-Nejad's assumption of office in 2005, the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council announced a ban on movies promoting, in its view, secularism, feminism, unethical behavior, drug abuse, violence, or alcoholism. Films of some domestic directors were not permitted to be shown in the country.

Films are not the only form of free expression suppressed in Iran. The government significantly restricts academic freedom, censors cultural events, including concerts, and subjects journalists to harassment, fines, torture and imprisonment. Iran's constitution provides for freedom of expression, but Iranian authorities, as in the case of Ms. Farahani, too often deny this freedom in practice.