Attempt to censor Iranium brings it lots of attention

The Chronicle Herald – –

By PAUL SCHNEIDEREIT
January 25, 2011

Well, that worked out well for the Iranian embassy, didn?t it? Maybe not.

Because if their aim was to prevent Canadians from being exposed to a documentary highly critical of the theocratic regime running that country, you?d rate the outcome as an epic fail.

Not only is the documentary, Iranium, going to be shown at Library and Archives Canada on Feb. 6 ? despite the protests of Iran?s embassy ? but publicity over various attempts to stop the film from being presented in Ottawa has caught the attention of many, many more eyeballs than would likely have been the case otherwise.

Library officials say they did not accede to the embassy?s original demands that a scheduled screening of Iranium a week ago be stopped. But subsequent phone threats, and a suspicious bag left at the facility ? which I?m not saying are connected to the embassy?s demands ? led to the initial decision, by Library officials, to actually cancel the show.

I don?t know, for a fact, why those events happened in that sequence; though, of course, there are suspicions.

But what?s undeniable is that after Ottawa?s Free Thinking Film Society found out its planned screening of Iranium ? which it had a contract with the Library to show at that location ? had been shut down, the society complained to Heritage Minister James Moore, who ordered the documentary to be presented cialis without a perscription as intended.

The resulting media coverage, from coast to coast, ensured that lots of Canadians who would never have heard of Iranium became aware that someone or some group sympathetic to the autocratic Iranian regime was trying to stifle, via intimidation, free speech in this country.

I mean, who knows how many more visits there have been to iraniumthemovie.com in the last week, thanks to the fallout? That?s iraniumthemovie.com, if you missed it. There, visitors are learning more about the people who made the documentary, narrated by Iranian-born actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, and their accusations about the regime?s support for terrorism and quest for nuclear weapons.

For example, I know I wouldn?t have otherwise been on the site on Monday, which is when I learned the first 50,000 people who register their emails there will apparently get to see the documentary for free online on Feb. 8.

As for what exactly happened at the Library, accounts conflict. Fred Litwin, president of the Free Thinking Film Society, says the Library offered, at its expense, to have the film moved to the local Canadian Museum of Nature, which seems an odd way for a government body to handle threats ? i.e., by tossing the hot potato to another institution. Litwin refused, he says, and contacted the minister.

In any case, the blow-up led, according to news reports, to an official diplomatic note from the Canadian government to Tehran, emphasizing Canada is a free country and freedom of expression is a fundamental value, one that won?t be compromised.

On that point, I have some sympathy for the Iranians, who no doubt could easily have been confused about how “core” a value free speech really could be in Canada, regardless of what politicians say, given the antics of this country?s human rights commissions over the years in squelching people?s right to speak freely.

But I digress, somewhat.

Another side benefit ? or side disaster, depending on point of view ? from this incident has been the attention some writers have drawn, during the last week of coverage, to Tehran?s long-time war on filmmakers in its own country.

For example, one article that I read online alerted me to the fact two famous Iranian filmmakers ? Jafar Panahi and Mohammed Rasoulof ? were recently jailed for six years by an Islamist court for being in a group “agitating propaganda against the system.” The story said some attending the upcoming Oscars plan to wear white ribbons in solidarity with the two Iranian filmmakers.

Thanks to the controversy, I think I?ll watch Iranium myself now, to see just exactly what it was the Iranian embassy didn?t want me to see.

This article was originally published here.