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Not Banned in Teheran

DPA news agency (tt)February 8, 2009

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi dismissed speculation that his latest feature and Berlinale's Golden Bear contender, "About Elly," had run into trouble with the authorities in Tehran.

Golshifteh Farahani Taraneh Alidousti in a scene from "About Elly"
"About Elly" is a movie about relationships and honorImage: Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin

"There are no problems with this film," Farhadi told a news conference after the movie about attitudes towards life was screened at the Berlin Film Festival on Saturday.

Press reports had said Iranian authorities sought to have the film banned because of its content about the role of women and the question of honor in relationships between couples.

But this was not true, said the director as he addressed journalists with leading members of the cast, including actress Golshifteh Farahani, 25, star of the Hollywood movie "Body of Lies."

Farhadi blamed the media for exaggerating the controversy surrounding the film. "I think they really blew things up out of all proportion," he said.

"I am quite confident the film will not have difficulties in Iran. In fact, it is being shown in Tehran tonight, after the premiere in Berlin."

A storm in a teacup

A busy intersection in Teheran
The director says his movie will be shown in TeheranImage: DW

Farahani, who plays the female lead in the two-hour drama, spoke of "a storm in a teacup" and refuted claims that she herself was experiencing difficulties with the authorities because of her roles.

"I don't have any problems in going back to Iran. I've never had such problems. It's just propaganda," said the 25-year-old, who played opposite heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio in "Body of Lies."

"About Elly" -- Darbareye Elly in Persian -- is about a group of friends who travel to the coast of north Iran for a brief holiday with their children. Kindergarten teacher Elly is also part of the group.

The young woman was invited with the aim of pairing her up with a young man who has just returned from Germany after obtaining a divorce from his German wife.

The exuberant mood of the group rapidly changes when Elly vanishes on the second day after an incident on the beach. When it transpires she was engaged to another man, the initially positive image of the young woman is dismantled and conflicts with moral values emerge beneath the cool, modern surface of the group in their mid-to-late 30s.

Coveted award

Asghar Farhadi
"About Elly" is Ashgar Farhadi's fourth feature filmImage: Tirgan Festival 2008

"About Elly" is one of 26 entries contending for the Golden Bear award for best film at this year's Berlinale, which opened on Thursday and runs until Feb. 15.

It is the fourth feature film by Isfahan-born Farhadi, who also wrote the script.

"What was important to me was to make a universal film that could be enjoyed all over the world," he said.

"There is nothing immoral about this film in terms of Iranian culture," he said, referring to the fact that Elly had decided to go on the holiday with her friends without telling her fiancée.

"To my mind it kind of reflects the difficulties we face in everyday life," said the director, whose "Fireworks Wednesday" received an award at the Chicago film festival in 2006.

The audience in Berlin rewarded "About Elly" with warm applause.

Last year at the Berlinale, craggy-faced Iranian star Reza Naji received the best actor award for his portrayal of a harassed father in director Majid Majidi's "The Song of Sparrows."