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.”


Bella and Donatella star in new Versace campaign

Bella Hadid walking in a Versace show earlier this year. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2018
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Bella and Donatella star in new Versace campaign

DUBAI: US-Palestinian model Bella Hadid stars in a new ad campaign for Italian fashion house Versace — and it’s interesting to say the least.

The model stars alongside chief designer Donatella Versace in the campaign for the luxury label’s Spring/Summer 2019 women’s collection.

In a video, which Donatella teased on Instagram on Tuesday, the designer can be seen giving Bella a tattoo of the word “Versace,” while Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” music plays to dramatic, almost unnerving, effect. The camera pulls out to show Bella, in a blue mini dress, being inked up by a black-clad Donatella, before the 22-year-old model stares at the camera as it zooms back in.

While the tattoo is almost certainly fake, the model’s dedication to Versace is seemingly quite real — she has walked the runway for the high-end brand on more than one occasion and has featured in a number of adverts for the Italian fashion giant.

The theatrical campaign video is just one part of the push to promote the new collection, with Hadid being joined by the likes of model Irina Shayk and 1990s supermodel Shalom Harlow in a series of photographs.

The collection is marked by bold prints, patchwork and leather and was first unveiled during Milan Fashion Week in September.

In the show, Hadid wore a tight one-shouldered mini dress in yellow leather and matching sneakers.

Some of the prints used in the collection include colored stripes, bright flowers over pinstripes, checks, roses and small flowers mimicking animal prints.

“The style of the Versace woman is so recognizable that it need not be explained. She is not afraid of showing her personality and she is extremely feminine and confident,” read a style note by the fashion house, known for its daring designs.

Close-fitting silhouettes, flared trousers and layered looks feature in the collection that is distinguished by its use of orange, violet and lime colors.

The line also features big boxed bags that echo old-fashioned travel trunks and large PVC shopping bags emblazoned with Versace writing. In terms of footwear, chunky sneakers, college shoes, or square-heeled sandals are currently favored by the fashion house.

The brand with the famed Medusa logo said that her “mystic powers and ever-powerful persona are evident now more than ever,” according to the show notes in September.

Fake snakeskin, flowers, polished leather and layer upon layer, the Versace collection has been hailed as eclectic and refined by AFP.