A film showing at this year’s Byron Bay Film Festival is so sensitive that its name has had to be kept secret, its maker anonymous and even the country it is set in unnamed.
Film X, as the Festival has chosen to call it, is not overtly political or provocative, does not attack the government of the country or criticise its rulers.
However, following an earlier work which transgressed some of the religious principles of the country, the filmmaker was banned from pursuing his craft, an injunction that followed a spell in prison, solitary confinement and a 40-day hunger strike.
By merely making this film, the filmmaker is taking a risk but he wants it to be seen. BBFF supports him in his struggle for freedom of expression.
BBFF was able to interview the filmmaker, and his answers are given below; the rough English of his replies has not been altered:
BBFF: You have been banned from making films in your country: would you tell us how this came about?
FILMMAKER: My ban on filmmaking comes from my collection of artistic activities in the field of writing, photography and filmmaking.
I mean the perception of my activities has led me to being ban. Of course, the critical look of my work has made the situation worse.
BBFF: Are your films political? What is it that the authorities want to put a stop to?
FM: My films have critical look at the situation. Of course I’m not into political filmmaking and I have an artistic attitude, but unfortunately authorities’ perceptions of my work has always been political.
BBFF: What were the consequences of your involvement with the authorities? You have been imprisoned?
FM: I have been sentenced for six years in prison for the reason of insulting the sacred and propaganda against the system. So far, I have been deprived of all citizenship rights. I have been on a prolonged hunger strike in prison and spent about three months in solitary confinement for the purpose of examining my case and interrogation.
BBFF: Despite the ban, you are continuing to make films. Isn’t that dangerous, and what is it that motivates you to take such risks?
FM: My endeavour is for freedom of art. So if I don’t do anything I can’t make hope in others heart. I have to present my work even within limits to give new hope into my community.
BBFF: Can you see a time coming when you and other creatives are allowed freedom of expression?
FM: My efforts will definitely work. I’ve spent all my youth on art freedom.
BBFF: Can you tell us something about the film that is screening at Byron Bay?
FM: Honestly, I would prefer that the film’s name and story remain hidden until mid-2020. Because this movie was made with restrictions and prohibitions. And I urge all of your viewers to just watch the movie and not say anything about the story and its subject for the moment, especially in cyberspace.
BBFF: What are your reasons for allowing the film to be screened here (in the West?)
FM: Any filmmaker needs to be seen. I have no cinema and my only hope is to being seen in the festivals. Of course, my priority is to convey concepts through cinema, which is the duty of every filmmaker. I have to say that this is very difficult for me
Because the ban on my work continues after my imprisonment and I am still not released.
BBFF: What can we do here in Australia to help you and other filmmakers?
FM: My only wish is to show my films in Australian cinemas and sell them on Australian television. Or maybe a blu-ray or DVD release there. Because I need the money back to continue my life in cinema. Unfortunately, no distributor has shown the courage to work with me so far. We only wish Australian artists help us to launch a powerful worldwide film distribution from Australia.
Thanks for helping me out.
Because I always work in a completely independent way, and this makes me and my work frustrated by the lack of return on investment.
BBFF: What message would you like to send to the audience watching your film at BBFF, and to Australians as a whole?
FM: I’m proud of you. As I have already mentioned, thank you for not telling the name and the story of the film until mid-2020 that is the worldwide release. Because always working under the shadow of prohibition has forced me into unconventional pleas from my audience that I hope they will forgive me. I love you and hope you enjoy the movie.
Film X screens at Byron Community Centre on Monday, October 21 at 2.30pm. Before it is The Prisoner, by Ali Mozzaffari.