Berlin condemns Berlinale travel ban for Iranian directors

A woman walks past the logo of the Berlinale film festival. Paul Zinken/dpa
A woman walks past the logo of the Berlinale film festival. Paul Zinken/dpa

Mirroring the actions of the organizers of the Berlinale film festival, Berlin's state government has also called for two Iranian directors of a competition film at the international film fest to be afforded freedom of expression and travel.

"The Berlinale stands for human rights like no other international film festival," Berlin Senate Chancellery Director Florian Graf told dpa in Berlin on Friday. This can be seen in the diversity of the films shown and the people taking part in the festival.

"I condemn the entry ban imposed by the Iranian regime on the filmmakers Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha, who will not be able to attend the presentation of their film 'My Favourite Cake,'" Graf said.

Graf pointed out that the two were even threatened with legal proceedings and appealed to the German federal government to support a travel permit.

On Thursday, the Berlinale had drawn attention to the travel ban for Moghaddam and Sanaeeha. Their passports had been confiscated and they were threatened with legal proceedings because of their work as artists.

Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek, the festival's management duo, called on the Iranian authorities to "return the passports and lift all restrictions that prevent Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha from travelling to Berlin in February."

The drama "Keyke Mahboobe Man" (My Favourite Cake) is to screen in the Competition of the Berlinale, which begins on February 15. It is about a woman in the Iranian capital Tehran who wants to pursue her desires against society's expectations. Moghaddam and Sanaeeha had already shown their film "Ballad of a White Cow" in the 2021 competition.

In November 2023, the renowned Iranian actress Hanieh Tavassoli was sentenced to six months in prison by a court. Tavassoli and other female colleagues were targeted by the judiciary during the wave of protests in autumn 2022 because they had shown solidarity with the women's movement.

Since then, they have been banned from working by the Ministry of Culture and sentenced to short-term imprisonment.

The protests were triggered by the death of the young Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in September 2022, when she was arrested by the morality police because a few strands of hair were visible under her headscarf. She died in police custody.