A scene from The Nights Of Zayandeh-rood, directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf.

Director Mohsen Makhmalbaf Smuggles His Censored Film Out of Iran

Leading Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf has smuggled The Nights of Zayandeh-rood (1990)—a narrative that addresses issues such as suicide while chronicling the lives of an anthropologist and his daughter during the 1979 Iranian Revolution—out of Iran twenty-six years after he produced the film, Saeed Kamali Dehghan of The Guardian reports.

Shortly after it screened at Tehran’s annual Fajr festival in 1990, the work was confiscated and banned. Makhmalbaf, who is living in exile in London, said, “I succeeded in stealing it but I can’t possibly give more details about how it was done.”

The arthouse cinema Curzon Bloomsbury, which is screening the film in London on Saturday, stated, “It’s a miracle it got made in the first place and that it still exists, albeit in a fragmentary form.” Censors had removed parts of the originally one-hundred-minute film.

Makhmalbaf, who was accused of critiquing Islam, said the film questions “the hope that people had in the revolution. I also questioned the people themselves, that they were reproducing tyranny.” He added that the film’s current state is like “a living thing with no limbs, but [it is] still breathing and its story and meaning wasn’t lost.”

Known for producing critically acclaimed movies, such as Gabbeh (1995), The Cyclist (1987), and Kandahar (2001), Makhmalbaf was recently the subject of a film by Palme d’Or–winning director Abbas Kiarostami, who died in July 2016.

Kiarostami’s film Close-Up (1990) focuses on the trial of a man who impersonates Mohsen Makhmalbaf and promises a family that they will star in one of his upcoming films. Patrick Harrison of wrote that Close-Up “is cinema as reconciliation—human reconciliation as well as the reconciliation of incongruous realities.”