Iranian filmmakers are secretly filming dual versions of scenes from their movies in anticipation of a regime change after months of protests against hard-line Islamic rule in their country.
The hijab-free scenes – where actresses are portrayed without the head covering that is mandatory for women in the country – are part of a widespread protest movement in Iran sparked after Masha Amin’s death in police custody in September.
The 22-year-old woman had been arrested by Iran’s controversial ‘morality policy’ after being told she was not wearing her head-covering correctly. Iranian authorities claim she died of natural causes related to a heart condition; critics say she died after being beaten.
Her death sparked a wave of widespread protests that Iranian authorities have sought to suppress through an increasingly violent crackdown. At least 469 people, including 63 children and 32 women, have been killed by Iranian security and law enforcement officials, according to a new report published Dec. 17 by the Iranian Human Rights Organisation.
Iranian director Hana Makhmalbaf, who is currently living in London in exile along with her filmmaker parents Moshen Makhmalbaf and Marzieh Meshkini, told Variety that many directors are convinced change is coming to Iran, and are already making changes to productions that are underway.
“I heard that everyone who is making a movie is making two copies — one without the hijab and one with it — because they believe so much in the revolution that they think that when their film is done after post-production, they will by then need this version without hijabs,” she said.
Kaveh Farnam, of the Iranian Association of Independent Filmmakers, also confirmed to Variety that “some directors” have shot scenes without hijabs, even though they’re doing so at tremendous risk.
“The Ministry that controls cinema announced that if they find out that somebody is doing this they will be punished,” said Farnam. “The most important matter is they try to shoot as much as possible without [the] hijab, without a head covering.”
Speaking to Variety at the 16th Eurasia film festival in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Dec. 17, Makhmalbaf’s comments came as Iranian authorities announced the detention of Iranian actor Taraneh Alidoosti, after she criticized the use of the death penalty against protestors.
Makhmalbaf fled Tehran in 2009 after authorities issued an arrest warrant following the Venice premiere of her film “Green Days,” about the protests of that time. She said that many people are currently going to film sets without their hijabs.
“When asked to put them on, women say, ‘We are giving blood for this hijab, we are not going to put it on.’ This is what the regime is scared of — that nobody is afraid any longer. Taking the hijab off is a symbol. It is a symbol of saying, ‘We don’t want you [Islamic authorities].’”
Hopes are high today that the protests will result in a change of regime, she said.
“During the last few years this is the fourth time we’ve had protests in Iran – but this is the first time that people around the world are really hearing about them.
“The power of the current protests was evident in the anger people felt at the killing of Masha Amina – and all the subsequent killings.That girl was a symbol of how innocent people are going in the street… she was not even fighting with the regime and they killed her for nothing.”
Makhmalbaf was arrested on numerous occasions before she fled Iran.
“Now it is so different from last time — they don’t want this regime even if they make some changes. For every person they kill, they bring a thousand more onto the streets.”
Protestors want governments around the world to recognize their cause and impose stricter sanctions on the governments of the Islamic Republic – not the general sanctions that have only hurt ordinary people, she added.
Still, Makhmalbaf sees signs that change is coming. Recently, the niece of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, 83-year-old Ali Khameini, was sentenced to three years for her outspoken opposition to the government, and earlier this month, his sister (Badri Hosseini Khamenei, mother of the imprisoned niece Farideh Moradkhan) also declared her opposition to her brother’s regime.