The inauguration of the much-awaited 27th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) on Friday turned out to be a venue for expressing solidarity with Iranian women's anti-hijab protest.
Hair as a symbol of resistance
A lock of hair, sent all the way from the West Asian country, turned out to be a political statement of the ongoing protests and became the spotlight of the inaugural ceremony. The hair was sent as a mark of protest by Iranian filmmaker-activist Mahnaz Mohammadi, who could not reach here to receive the 'Spirit of Cinema' award of the IFFK, due to a travel ban imposed by the government in her country.
In the absence of Mohammadi, Greek filmmaker and jury member Athina Rachel Tsangari received the honour on her behalf. Tsangari later held up the lock of hair in her hands and read out the message from Mohammadi.
The director, in the message, said "sending this to you because at this stage, we all need solidarity to reclaim our natural right" which received a standing ovation from the audience. The hair was later handed over to festival director Ranjith.
Earlier, pointing out the inability of Mohammadi to receive the 'Spirit of Cinema' award due to the travel ban, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan recalled her recent words that she was treated as a criminal in her country as she is a woman and a filmmaker.
If the work of a filmmaker even caused a ban on her travels, imagine how much her films have disturbed the authorities there, he said.
"Mohammadi's episode also reveals the prevailing circumstances in countries that believe that a certain clan or community is superior and set up governments based on such beliefs. Real freedom means the freedom to live without any fear and events like film festivals and related programmes should be able to ensure that liberty," he added.
Anti-hijab protests in Iran
Iran has been rocked by protests over the last few months following the death of a young woman Mahsa Amini on Sept 16, who died after being detained by the country's morality police for not wearing attire in public as prescribed by the authorities there.
At least 475 people have been killed in the demonstrations amid a heavy-handed security crackdown, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been monitoring the protests since they began. Over 18,000 have been detained by authorities.
The show of solidarity at the festival comes a day after the Iranian regime executed a prisoner convicted for a crime allegedly committed during the country’s ongoing nationwide protests, the first such death penalty carried out by Tehran, sparking intense international outcry.
(With inputs from PTI)