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The 70th Berlinale International Film Festival will be held from February 20 to March 1, 2020.
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Berlin 70. Made the Right Choice Iranian protest film, "There is No Evil", awarded Golden Bear.

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By Alex Deleon

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Iranian Dissident Director, Mohammad Rasoulof, 47.
 
Yes, of course, it was a political decision, Highly political, and it was far from the best Itanian film ever and maybe not the best film of the festival, but it was doubtlessly the Right Thing to do, declaring "There is no Evil" the best film at Berlinale 70.  Dissident Iranian director, Mohammad Rasoulof, whose film "A Man of Integrity" was awarded best film in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2017, had his passport confiscated upon return to Iran so that he could no longer leave the country. The film, a study of a young couple trying to exist in a corrupt society, was deemed as subversive by the theocratic regime and Rasoulof was also banned from further filmmaking.  He made the current film in secret, using the names of other directors for the four episodes which constitute the film. Moreover they were submitted as separate short films, since the government pays less attention to shorts.  The completed feature film was then submitted to Berlin and the staff and actors were permitted to travel here representing the Iranian Competition entry. All, of course, except for Rasoulof.  At the press conference his seat remained pointedly empty in the center of the conference table with his name prominently exhibited before the empty chair.
 
Such an obvious protest against Iran by Berlin was no novelty.  Dissident director Jafar Panahi, also under similar travel and working bans in Iran, was given the empty seat treatment for his film "Taxi" here in 2015. Another Panahi film, "This is not a film" had to be smuggled out of the Country in a birthday cake, and was sent to Cannes where it won a prize.
The translation title of Rasoulof's eighth  feature "Evil does not exist" is a bit odd because there is evil aplenty in the picture. The original Persian title "Sheytan vojud nadarad" literally means Satan, the Devil does not exist, while the picture implies, if anything, that there is a Satanic presence running the country.  Small wonder that Rasoulof has been arrested and sentenced to a year in prison, which he is now awaiting out on bail.  What further penalties will be imposed after the notoriety of the current film, remains to be seen.  Iran is at the moment one of the countries enduring a severe outbreak of Corona Virus, with a number of ministers infected to add to the headaches of the regime.
Rasoulof's new film is an overt protest against the death penalty in Iran, and implicitly (we must imagine)  against the execution of Political dissidents. If it were merely about the death penalty itself  that would not be such a threat to the establishment.  When compared to the works of other superior directors like Panahi, Kiarostami (R. I.P.) or Makhmalbaf and Bahman Ghobadi, both now living in exile, this new film is no masterpiece, but it is well enough made to get its message of protest across to Iranian viewers.  
Asked why he returned to Iran from France director Rasoulof said "This is my country. I had no other choice".  He is more than willing to face the consequences of his filmmaking activities and, presumably , hopes that the increasing unrest in Iran will ultimately result in positive changes, if not an entire change of regime. This is one man of courage and, yes, of Integrity.  
As sitting American president Trump is fond of saying, "We'll see what happens".

 

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Berlin 2019: The dailies from the Berlin Film Festival brought to you by our team of festival ambassadors. Vanessa McMahon, Alex Deleon, Laurie Gordon, Lindsay Bellinger and Bruno Chatelin...
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