Ax Ahmadinejad film from festival, exiled filmmakers say

BERLIN (JTA) — Exiled Iranian filmmakers are demanding that a film about Iran’s president be withdrawn from a film festival in Berlin.

The exiled filmmakers say "Letters to the President," by Czech director Petr Lom, is propaganda from an anti-Semitic, inhumane regime. The film focuses on Iranian citizens writing to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In their protest letter made public Monday, members of the Club of Iranian and European Filmmakers demanded that the film be withdrawn from the Berlin International Film Festival and that the festival’s director, Dieter Kosslick, resign after years of providing  "a stage of … propaganda" for the Iranian regime.

"The foreign policy of the Shiite Regime is based on anti-Semitism and the annihilation of the Jews in the world and in Israel," read the letter in part. The film "tries to show a contemptuous president as ‘human and popular,’ " when in fact critics of the regime "are constantly arrested and executed," and religious minority groups, women, homosexuals and human rights activists are routinely persecuted, the writers emphasized.

According to the festival Web site, the film documents how "millions of Iranians, encouraged by state propaganda, write to their president. All too often these letters are indicators of the successful manipulation of public opinion by the state, which reinforces religious Muslims in their belief that they are the victims of worldwide persecution."

The critics noted, however, that films critical of the regime that are approved for release outside Iran are prohibited to be shown in Iran.

"Letters to the President" was approved for release by the Iranian Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance. The 59th Berlin film festival runs Feb. 5-15.

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