Iranian director facing jail for film attacking corruption

This file photo taken on May 27, 2017 shows Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof posing as he arrives at the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. (AFP)
Updated 22 December 2017
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Iranian director facing jail for film attacking corruption

PARIS: It is not easy to lead a good and virtuous life in Iran if the film-maker Mohammad Rasoulof’s latest film, “A Man of Integrity,” is anything to go by.
Its downtrodden hero struggles to make an honest rial from his goldfish farm, caught in a nightmarish, distorting fish bowl of corruption at every turn.
The film, which won the prestigious Un Certain Regard prize at the Cannes film festival in May, is a damning indictment of how the “daily reality of graft” is sapping the Islamic Republic.
“Corruption has penetrated every layer of society,” Rasoulof told AFP by Skype from his home in Tehran, where he is effectively under house arrest since his passport was confiscated when he returned from the Telluride film festival in the US in September.
The dark thriller tells the story of Reza, who refuses to pay a bribe for a loan that would save his business, and finds himself confronting a rotten array of officials and businessmen who run a small town in the north of the country.
“Corruption goes from the bottom of the social ladder right to the top of the pyramid of power,” said Rasoulof, whose earlier acclaimed films “Manuscripts Don’t Burn” and “Iron Island” were banned in his homeland.
“A Man of Integrity” is unlikely to see the light of day there either despite being praised by Variety and the Hollywood Reporter as a “compelling... tense, enraging drama.”
Rasoulof, 34, already has a suspended 12-month prison sentence hanging over his head after he was arrested on set in 2010 with his friend, the “Taxi” director Jafar Panahi, who was subsequently banned from making films for 20 years.
Initially jailed for six years, Rasoulof’s sentence was reduced on appeal.
This time he faces similar charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “endangering national security.”
But the threat of prison did not stop Rasoulof squaring up to the uncomfortable truth he insists is undermining the country from within.
Iranians are exhausted by graft, he said. “They want to leave it behind but they cannot, because corruption has become a system.
“This system forces you to be both corrupted, and a corrupter yourself. Even my friends are repulsed by it but cannot get away from it,” he added.
“People become oppressed and oppressors at the same time,” Rasoulof argued.
In the film, no one gets a free pass, not even Reza’s long-suffering wife Hadis, the head of a secondary school.
She does nothing to stop a girl being excluded because she comes from a religious minority.
Nor is the fact that Reza is a goldfish farmer without significance. Iranians traditionally display goldfish on their tables for Persian New Year, Norouz, to symbolize renewal and perpetual life, and release them into ponds and rivers afterwards, where they inevitably perish.
President Hassan Rouhani tried to suggest a more humane alternative last year by putting an orange in his fish bowl.
For now, Rasoulof’s own fate is not dissimilar to that of his character’s goldfish.
“I am completely in the dark, I do not know what is going to happen,” he told AFP. “But I will not allow myself to be beaten by it.”
“I cannot see my film being shown in Iran while I am waiting to be tried,” he added, lamenting how the country’s “intellectuals had either left, were in prison, or had been reduced to silence.”
His French production company ARP has launched a petition on Change.org demanding that he be allowed to work and travel freely.
“If people were not supporting me outside Iran... my situation would be a lot worse,” Rasoulof added. “What keeps me going is that people do not forget me, and that my film will be seen.”


Upcoming albums to end the year on a high note

Updated 19 September 2018
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Upcoming albums to end the year on a high note

  • Check out the upcoming albums of the year
  • Here is a list of new music to look out for

DUBAI: Very few artists are synonymous with a genre — but David Guetta is the emissary of EDM, the head honcho of house. The Frenchman might get flak from detractors about his live performance style, but it is unlikely the multi-platinum-selling DJ and producer loses much sleep over it. “7,” his seventh studio outing (queue the memes), is a double album jam-packed with sizzling crossover collaborations featuring pop/hip-hop luminaries such as Justin Bieber, Sia, G-Eazy and Nicki Minaj. With another runaway hit on the cards, slowing down does not appear to be in 50-year old Guetta’s plans.

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Muse, “Simulation Theory”
November 9, Warner Bros. Records

With a career spanning 25 years, and their previous record debuting at number one in an almost implausible 21 countries, the tireless threesome do not seem to have much left to prove. And yet Muse are never short of ambition. For their eighth studio LP, the Grammy-guzzling, stadium-rock royalty have enlisted an all-star roster of producers that includes pop powerhouse Timbaland, and have commissioned cover art from a designer of posters for major Hollywood movie hits. Expect a majestic alt-rock affair laced with soaring vocals, blistering musicianship and Muse’s trademark knack for tasteful theatrics.

Sharmoofers, “Enfesam”
October/November, Independent

The Egyptian gurus of groove are, hands down, the ultimate party band. They have been taking the Middle East by storm since 2012 with their infectious hooks, wildly entertaining lyrics and indomitable energy on the stage. If “Paranoia,” their 2015 debut, was the sound of trendsetters dancing to their own tune, “Enfesam” chronicles a coming of age, as well as a first foray into romantic themes. They are branching out and growing — naturally — but with a playful abandon of a kind that only the Sharmoofers know how.

Twenty One Pilots, “Trench”
October 5, Fueled By Ramen

It is hard to believe that this trailblazing electro/hip-hop and alt/indie-rock duo have been working the international touring circuit for almost 10 years. 2015’s “Blurryface” became the first album in history to have every track certified at least gold in the US. And with “Trench,” their fifth LP, it is official: the Pilots are ruthless, go-getting, hit-maker machines. “Jumpsuit” is already the decade’s fastest-rising No. 1 single on Billboard’s Alternative Songs radio-airplay chart, though the full album is still awaiting release.

Le Trio Joubran, “The Long March”
October 12, Cooking Vinyl

To say that Samir, Wissam and Adnan Joubran merely play music could almost be regarded as an insult. The three oudists use “the king of instruments” as a conduit, a beating heart that unites them in an impassioned, deeply spiritual form of expression. For their long-awaited new LP they have teamed up with the legendary Roger Waters on the moving lead single, “Carry the Earth.” The album is a profound poetic canvas for their unique brand of experimentation — and an artistic triumph that looks certain to endure.

Josh Groban, “Bridges”
September 21, Reprise

A jack of all trades can avoid “master of none” territory only if they are capable of jumping from one role to another with an effortless, chameleonic elegance. Josh Groban is made of the stuff. He is a prolific film and TV actor, but it is his instantly recognizable voice that has helped the award-winning multi-instrumentalist sell more than 25 million classical/pop crossover albums worldwide. His highly anticipated eighth LP includes high-profile guest appearances by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah McLachlan, and features Groban singing in various languages.

Sigala, “Brighter Days”
September 21, Ministry of Sound/Columbia

Bruce Fielder ¬— better known as Sigala — is only about to drop his first full-length album. Incredibly, however, he recently hit the landmark of 1 billion streams on Spotify, while as many as six of his singles have hovered inside the top 10 of the UK singles chart. “Easy Love,” his 2015 debut, even reached No. 1. The English house and dance-pop DJ, producer and remixer has assembled a stellar line-up of collaborators, including Craig David, Nile Rodgers, Meghan Trainor and French Montana. One to watch closely.

Ibrahim Maalouf, “Levantine Symphony No. 1”
Out now, Universal Music

The French-Lebanese trumpet player and composer has always sought to demolish clichés with his unconventional arrangements and rhythms. His melodies and harmonies translate a musical upbringing enveloped by the mystique of the East into an eclectic, neo-classical melange, with jazz and world-music overtones. This might sound like a mouthful to the uninitiated but Maalouf’s greatest gift stems from his ability to craft a masterwork that transcends stereotypical complexities, leaving the listener with an inspiring opus that is both diverse and speaks with a confident, unified voice.

Cher, “Dancing Queen”
September 28, Warner Bros. Records

Cher may be 72 years old but she is the “Goddess of Pop,” Abba are one of the best-selling acts of all time (up there with Cher) and “Mamma Mia” is a massive hit with cinema audiences. So this covers album, which the Oscar, Emmy and Grammy winner was inspired to record following her 2018 appearance in the 2018 sequel to the big-screen musical that everyone begrudgingly adores, gets at least an honorable mention. Irresistible, iconic pop tunes — even if you will not hear anyone admit it.

Jean-Michel Jarre, Equinoxe Infinity
November 16, Sony

Another living legend gearing up to make a statement of note, but unlike others Jean-Michel Jarre is not simply riding on the coattails of his glory days. France’s “godfather of electronic music” is celebrating lifetime sales of more than 80 million units, and half a century of not just performing but relentless innovation, with a sequel to his 1978 landmark “Equinoxe” album. The record focuses on humankind’s relationship with technology, as seen through the pioneering musical lens of a man who has more than 20 studio albums under his belt, and counting. Talk about dedication and perseverance.

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