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BERLINALE 2013

FILM

Iran director Panahi makes cry for freedom

The Berlinale this week premiered the latest film by banned Iranian director Jafar Panahi, a haunting lament about crushing state oppression and a tribute to the resilience of the creative drive. AFP's Deborah Cole reports.

Iran director Panahi makes cry for freedom
Photo: DPA

“Closed Curtain”, which Panahi co-directed with longtime collaborator Kambuzia Partovi, tells the story of two people on the run from the police hiding out at a secluded villa.

The older fugitive owns a dog, banned as pets because Islamic law deems the animals to be unclean, while the young woman, who soon proves suicidal, was caught attending an illicit party on the Caspian Sea.

They keep the drapes drawn to avoid detection by the authorities but while the man tries to keep working — on a film script, as it happens — she slips deeper into despair.

Panahi was detained for a documentary he tried to make on the unrest following the 2009 election and banned from making more films for 20 years. He was given a six-year jail sentence but currently remains under house arrest.

But the director, who has picked up a clutch of prizes at major international festivals for socially critical movies that are outlawed in Iran, has been feted abroad as one of the most original voices of the Iranian new wave.

Though he was prevented from coming to present the film in Berlin, Panahi appears on screen during the second half of the picture and it remains unclear

whether the two fugitives are not just a figment of his imagination as the action moves from reality to fiction and back again.

The walls of the villa are covered with European versions of his own film posters including the 2000 picture “The Circle” which ends with a prison door slamming shut on a cell containing all the main female protagonists.

Partovi, who also plays the role of the man with the dog, said Panahi had been deeply depressed due to the official restrictions when they started working on the project, which he said was aimed at “bridging this hard period”.

“It’s difficult to work but not being able to work is even more difficult, particularly at the height of your career,” he said.

Partovi said it was unclear what consequences the new picture, which got a mixed reception in Berlin, would have for them in Iran.

“Nothing has happened until now but we don’t know what the future has in store for us,” he said.

Maryam Moghadam, the lead actress, said her character represented Panahi’s desperation.

“She’s the dark side, the hopelessness of every person and specifically the director in the movie,” she said. “The dark side of his mind, the hopeless power — that part that doesn’t hope any more and wants to give up.”

Panahi’s “This Is Not A Film” had to be smuggled out in a USB key hidden inside a cake to be screened at the Cannes film festival.

Cannes, Berlin and Venice invited him to sit on their juries in 2010 and 2011 but because he was barred from leaving the country, organisers left a symbolic empty chair for him to remind film-goers of his plight.

Panahi, who was born in 1960, was awarded in December the prestigious Sakharov human rights prize by the European Parliament — a move that enraged Iran and further strained relations with the Islamic republic.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman on Monday said Berlin had appealed to Tehran to allow Panahi to attend the festival and protesters outside the Berlinale cinema held up cardboard cutouts of the director demanding he be free to travel.

Panahi released a statement with the press materials for the film, saying the story served as a metaphor for his personal plight.

“‘Closed Curtain’ uses shifting genres and stories within stories to highlight why film-making is a necessity in a film-maker’s life: it is the imperative need to show the reality of the world we live in,” he said.

“Closed Curtain” is one of 19 films vying for the Berlin’s Golden Bear top prize to be awarded Saturday.

A gripping Iranian families drama, “A Separation” by Asghar Farhadi, won the Golden Bear in 2011 at a festival that has long spotlighted the country’s embattled directors.

AFP/mry

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BERLIN

EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

Shops
If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

Leisure
2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

Hairdressers
For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

Transport
3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.

 

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