Iran has submitted Reza Mirkarimi’s The Night Guardian for Best International Film category at the 96th Academy Awards, in a move that will likely prompt pushback from the country’s dissident film community.
A press release announcing the selection said the film had been selected by the government-controlled Farabi Cinema Foundation from three short-listed titles which also included Omid Shams’s Conjugal Visit and Ali Hazrati’s The Town.
The drama stars Touraj Alvand as the story of a rural worker forced to move to the city where he ekes out a living on the streets.
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The announcement coincides with the first anniversary of the Woman Life Freedom protests provoked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16, 2022 after being held in police custody for not wearing her veil correctly.
The country’s hardline Islamist regime ratcheted up a crackdown on the country’s creative community as well as pro-democracy activists in the lead-up to the anniversary.
It emerged at the end of August that Leila’s Brothers director Roustayi had been sentenced to six months in prison on charges of “anti-regime propaganda activity” for screening the family drama in Cannes in 2022.
Documentary filmmaker and female rights activist Mojgan Ilanlou was also taken into custody briefly.
The Night Guardian was among just a handful of titles to play at Iran’s Fajr International Film Festival this spring, winning Best Director for Mirkarimi.
The event overseen by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance was widely boycotted by Iranian filmmakers and the international cinema community this year in response to the government’s hardline response to the Woman Life Freedom protests.
Iran has won the Oscar for Best International Film twice for Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation and The Salesman in 2011 and 2016 respectively. Majid Majidi’s Sun Children and Farhadi’s A Hero made it onto the short list but were not nominated in 2020 and 2021.
The submission deadline for the Best International Film category is October 2.
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