The IRGC’s Intelligence Organization (IRGC-IO) has announced a total ban on contact or collaboration with Belgium-based filmmaking NGO the Close Up Initiative.
In an announcement on Wednesday, the IRGC-IO accused the Initiative of receiving “material and spiritual aid from the government of Israel”. It had been blacklisted, the Guards claimed, due to “the revelation of the true nature of behind-the-scenes supporters” and “to prevent sensitivities in Muslim countries”.
Formerly called Greenhouse, the organization runs education and training programs for would-be documentary filmmakers in countries around the world, with a particular focus on the Middle East. Young filmmakers from Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen have taken part in its “transformational” mentorship scheme.
The works of some Iranian filmmakers had featured among selected works on the website in the past. Formerly based in Tel Aviv, Close Up has also previously been the subject of allegations by the Islamic Republic and supporters.
In 2013, after Close Up launched a training program in six Arab countries, the news website Quds declared the project “a Zionist plan to normalize relations with Arab countries under the guise of artistic endeavor… They will not win.”
As part of a recent, co-ordinated string of crackdowns on civil participation in Iran, in mid-July security forces detained three well-known Iranian filmmakers: Jafar Panahi, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad.
Rasoulof’s lawyers have told his family he is being held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, “under interrogation” in connection with one of his films, Lord. Aleahmad was temporarily released last week, officially due to Covid-19.
In a phone call to his wife, Jafar Panahi said his arrest had been an instance of “kidnapping” and that three days into his detention, he had been forced to plead for food and water from other prisoners due to not being given a money card.