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February 99, Week 3
|Iranian Film Fest Gets Oscar Boost||February 18|
|Iran Opens Trial of Ex-Deputy PM in His Absence||February 17|
|D.C. United Might Play Iran at RFK in May||February 17|
|Iran Intelligence Minister Chosen||February 17|
|Negotiations Underway For U.S.-Iran Match||February 16|
|Iranian students stage protest against beatings||February 15|
Iranian Film Fest Gets Oscar Boost
TEHRAN, Iran (Variety) - There was good news and some bad vibes at the
17th Fajr International Film Festival, Iran's window on the world that ran Feb. 1-10.
Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the country's Islamic revolution, it marked a time to look back at the unexpected flowering of post-revolutionary cinema and take stock of future prospects.
As the festival was drawing to a close, word that Majid Majidi's "The Children of Heaven," distributed in the United States by Miramax, had been nominated for an Academy Award in the best foreign-language film category caused jubilation.
This is the first time an Iranian film ever has made the Oscar short list.
"Apart from the quality of our recent Iranian movies, it's the way this film tells a story that caught the academy's attention," Majidi told Daily Variety. The nomination was announced triumphantly at fest's closing ceremony.
Majidi was still riding the Oscar wave when the international competition jury handed its best film prize to his new picture about a blind boy rejected by his father, "The Color of God."
The emotionally touching film also won the audience prize, earning top ratings from 77 percent of festgoers.
As usual, Tehran audiences eager for a glimpse beyond their borders stood in long lines to buy tickets. Every festival screening was sold out in advance, causing organizers to rescreen films for spillover viewers late into the night, sometimes until 3 a.m.
The commercial and cultural foothold that Iranian movies have made in the West, in Asia and the Mideast was clear from a guest list that included representatives of Miramax, New Yorker Films, the Sundance and New York film festivals, and 16 other major world fests. Most reported satisfaction with what they had seen.
"For me, this has been an exceptionally fruitful year," remarked Montreal festival chief Serge Losique, who went home counting five or six possible titles to invite to Canada.
Lead by "The Color of God," strong new Iranian films demonstrated the continuing power of this small country to produce moving and innovative works able to hold their own on the international scene.
Highlights included female director Tahmine Milani's openly feminist "Two Women"; Parviz Kimiavi's rebellious paean to the Persian poets of yore, "Iran Is My Homeland"; and Dariush Mehrjui's study of a lonely woman, "Banoo," a 1992 production just off the censors' blacklist.
Many of the top Iranian directors, however, kept their distance from the festival. Their disappointing absence was a clear sign of the tension between filmmakers and the ministry's film department, which organized the Fajr festival and a small but lively film market through the state company Farabi Cinema Foundation.
The most eagerly awaited picture, Abbas Kiarostami's "Strawberry Fields," still was being edited during the fest after the director had a stay in the hospital that delayed its completion. Produced locally in association with MK2, it is most likely to premiere later this year at Venice.
The other important new title, "Kish Island," got embroiled in a censorship dispute that turned into a festival cliffhanger about whether it would be screened. Iit quietly was slipped in on the last day after nearly all the 50 foreign guests had departed.
A six-episode omnibus by such top directors as Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Bahram Bayzai, Abolfazl Jalili and Nasser Taghvai, it finally screened sans two tales: one by Dariush Mehrjui, who was still shooting during the fest, and one by Rakshan Bani-Etemad.
Her episode was blocked by the state censors, whose ostensible objection is that she shows too much hair peeping from under the scarf of her 13-year-old heroine.
A local jury judging the Iranian competition gave its two main prizes for best film and direction to a conventionally pious war picture called "Hiva."
Besides "The Color of God," the other winners in the international competition were Ademir Kenovic (special jury award) for "The Perfect Circle," an emotionally charged first-hand account of the Sarajevo tragedy, and Ebrahim Hatamikia (best direction) for his gripping three-character Iranian desert drama, "The Red Ribbon."
Iran Opens Trial of Ex-Deputy PM in His Absence
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - An Iranian court on Tuesday began hearing defamation charges
against a former deputy prime minister in his absence despite protests from his lawyers, journalists
The lawyers said they would seek a new trial for Abbas Amir-Entezam, widely known as Iran's longest held political prisoner after spending much of the past 20 years in jail, the journalists said.
The defence attorneys protested that Amir-Entezam had been forced to remain in jail and not allowed to attend the court session, they added.
Amir-Entezam, who had spent 17 years in jail, was arrested again in September after having accused Assadollah Lajevardi -- the then recently assassinated former chief warden at Tehran's Evin prison -- of human rights abuses.
The prison is notorious for having held many political prisoners before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The court on Tuesday heard Lajevardi's relatives, whose legal action led to the arrest of Amir-Entezam, an outspoken critic of alleged human rights abuses in Iran since his release.
Amir-Entezam was a deputy prime minister and government spokesman in Iran's first cabinet after the 1979 revolution.
The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists said last week Iran had barred its observer from attending the trial and urged the Iranian government to ensure a fair trial.
Amir-Entezam had previously been convicted of spying for the United States, which led to his imprisonment. He has repeatedly denied the charges and demanded an open retrial.
D.C. United Might Play Iran at RFK in May
By Steven Goff|
Washington Post Staff Writer
The Iranian national soccer team might play D.C. United instead of the U.S. national team in Washington under a new plan being considered by soccer officials from both nations.
Under the latest proposal, Iran would play United on May 26 at RFK Stadium in its first-ever appearance in the United States. It then would play in a four-team tournament in Canada June 2-6 followed by a game against the U.S. team on June 13 in Southern California.
"We've been talking to the [U.S. Soccer Federation] to see if it would be possible," Kevin Payne, United's president and general manager, said yesterday. "It's something we would be interested in doing. . . . We have inquired, and now we'll have to wait and see if it will happen."
Talks concerning an Iranian visit to the United States began shortly after the national teams played each other last summer in a World Cup first-round match in Lyon, France. A pregame ceremony in which the players exchanged gifts and posed together for pictures drew worldwide praise and signified warming relations between the countries since the emergence of Iranian President Mohammed Khatemi.
The United States and Iran have had no diplomatic relations since November 1979, when Iranian militants tooks 52 hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held most of them for 444 days. In recent years, rapprochement has come through educational programs and sporting competitions, most notably wrestling tournaments in Tehran in April and September 1998.
Initial plans were for the national teams to play at RFK in early June, but the Iranians indicated an interest in playing several games during their trip. If they play United here, they would play the U.S. squad in another city to maximize ticket sales.
The earliest Iran could travel here is late May because several of its top players compete in the German league, which doesn't conclude its season until then.
United -- Major League Soccer's champion in 1996 and '97 and runner-up last year -- has never played a national team in its three-year existence. But the club has faced several pro teams from other countries and is hoping to play Bermuda's national team in late March.
United, which opens its 1999 season March 20, has league games scheduled for May 22 at Miami and May 30 at home against Chicago, but wouldn't have trouble adding the Iranian game in between.
"Nothing is finalized yet," said Hank Steinbrecher, the USSF's secretary general. "Discussions are continuing, but I don't think we will have any difficulty" in getting permission from the State Department to allow the Iranians into the country.
Iran Intelligence Minister Chosen
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's president asked parliament today to endorse his choice to replace the intelligence minister, who quit following disclosures that rogue agents in his ministry killed five Iranian dissidents and intellectuals. |
In a letter to the Majlis, or parliament, President Mohammad Khatami asked the 270-seat house to approve Ali Yunesi, a cleric who led the investigation into the killings, Tehran radio reported.
Khatami's hard-line opponents hold a slight majority in the Majlis, but Yunesi is expected to be approved. The Majlis must vote on his candidacy within two weeks.
As the military prosecutor, Yunesi investigated the series of killings of writers and dissidents that began in November. The probe resulted in the Intelligence Ministry's disclosure Jan. 5 that some of its agents had been arrested in connection with the five deaths.
The revelation, which intensified a long-simmering power struggle between moderate and hard-line factions in the government, led to the resignation last week of the intelligence minister, Qorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi.
Yunesi, 45, was one of the founders of the Intelligence Ministry after the 1979 Islamic revolution. He later served as prosecutor general of the Iranian capital, Tehran.
Yunesi is a hojatoleslam, or middle-ranking cleric. Only clerics have served as intelligence minister since the revolution.
Negotiations Underway For U.S.-Iran Match
By Steven Goff|
Washington Post Staff Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.The U.S. Soccer Federation is working with the State Department to stage a match between the national soccer teams of the United States and Iran this summer at RFK Stadium, a high-ranking USSF official said here today.
"If it goes the way I'd like it to go, we'll play them at RFK," Hank Steinbrecher, the USSF's secretary general, said today. "Talks are at a very high level right now."
The teams met last summer in Lyon, France, in a first-round World Cup game remembered more for its political implications than Iran's emotional 2-1 victory. In one of the World Cup's most memorable moments, the teams exchanged gifts and posed together for photographs before the game to signal warmer relations between the adversarial governments.
Since the World Cup, the countries' soccer federations have indicated a willingness to play again, but apparently until now, no specifics had been discussed. No date has been chosen, but Steinbrecher said the target is in early June.
The United States and Iran have had no diplomatic relations since November 1979, when Iranian militants took 52 Americans hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held most of them for 444 days.
But sporting competitions have been a part of a fitful rapprochement between the countries. The U.S. national wrestling team was warmly received for two competitions in Tehran in April and September 1998.
Jim Dalrymple, RFK Stadium's general manager, said he has not been asked about hosting the game, but "we would definitely be open to the idea. I would think there would be a lot of interest in that one."
Steinbrecher, who spoke at Alltel Stadium here while the U.S. team held its final workout before Saturday's friendly against Germany, said the USSF has been in contact with the State Department, the Iranian government and Iran's soccer federation. One complication is how the Iranians would be paid amid U.S. government restrictions on conducting business with that country.
As the USSF worked on future opponents, the U.S. team continued to prepare for its biggest challenge since Bruce Arena became coach about three months ago. The Americans' first two games under Arena were scoreless ties against unimpressive Australia and Bolivia.
Germany, a three-time world champion, is under renovation after quarterfinal exits in the last two World Cups. Coach Erich Ribbeck brought only a few veterans here -- most notably 37-year-old sweeper Lothar Matthaeus and attacking midfielder Andreas Moeller -- for the U.S. tour, which continues Tuesday against Colombia at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
The German soccer federation has so much influence, it was able to convince Lufthansa to re-route its daily scheduled flight, from Frankfurt to Miami, to Jacksonville instead. The team and large delegation are staying at a five-star Ritz-Carlton on posh Amelia Island.
"They're bringing 11 millionaires to play us," Arena said. But "we can't be concerned with results at this point. We need to play against quality opponents. There aren't many opponents greater than Germany."
Arena called in four German-based U.S. players for the game, including fleet midfielder Frankie Hejduk, who is close to cracking the lineup at Bayer Leverkusen. It has been an adjustment for Hejduk, a long-haired free spirit who previously played for UCLA and Major League Soccer's Tampa Bay Mutiny. The former California high school surfing champion said: "I miss the beach. You can't surf the Rhine."
Arena's top priority is to expand his player pool. U.S. World Cup veterans such as Alexi Lalas and Marcelo Balboa have been replaced by promising younger players from MLS, such as Eddie Lewis, 24, Chris Armas, 26, and C.J. Brown, 23. Arena also is keeping a close eye on several other foreign-based players, including 22-year-old midfielder Jovan Kirovski, who is here, and 21-year-old John O'Brien, who is not because of injury.
Also absent is defender Eddie Pope (hamstring), one of seven D.C. United players on the initial 20-man roster.
The United States lost all three previous games against Germany, most recently 2-0 at the World Cup last summer.
U.S. Notes: Midfielder Landon Donovan, 16, a native of Redlands, Calif., who scored two goals in the U.S. under-17 team's 4-3 upset over Argentina Thursday, is close to signing with Bayer Leverkusen, sources close to the contract talks said. Midfielder Kyle Beckerman (Arundel High) scored the go-ahead goal in the 66th minute for the first victory by any U.S. team in Buenos Aires in 86 years. . . . The U.S. under-23 team, preparing to qualify for the 2000 Olympics, will play the German under-21 squad here after the national game. United's Ben Olsen will start in midfield.
Iranian students stage protest against beatings
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- About 1,000 students and professors demonstrated in the Iranian city
of Isfahan, protesting the beating of university students at a rally earlier this month, the
official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Sunday.
Protesters at the Isfahan University of Technology on Saturday criticized the "negligence of the law enforcement personnel," who apparently did not intervene to break up a scuffle in which a student was stabbed, the agency said.
Iran has been struck by a wave of violence, triggered by the intensified power struggle between supporters of hard-liners and moderates inside the ruling Islamic government.
Since the moderate Mohammad Khatami was elected president in May 1997, vigilantes loyal to the hard-liners have attacked liberal newspapers, broken up pro-democracy demonstrations and even gone after senior officials allied with Khatami.
On Thursday, about 100 people attacked Hadi Khamenei, younger brother of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Hadi Khamenei, 51, is a press adviser to Khatami and owns the liberal-leftist newspaper Jahan-e Islam. His moderate political views are in contrast to those of his elder brother, who is a leading hard-liner in the Iranian hierarchy.