Iranian authorities forced the staff of the film “World War III” to remove the name of its director and the photo of its main actor from promotional billboards, in yet another move to punish artists and celebrities who have expressed support for anti-government protests.
The film’s distributor, Mohammad Shayesteh, said on April 18 that the charges were made following orders by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
"We removed the director's name from the promotional billboards. Today, the advertising company was told to remove [Mohsen] Tanabandeh's photo as well. Now, only a photo of a house remains on the billboard. Do we want to advertise a real estate company?” Shayesteh wrote in an Instagram post.
“World War III,” is a 2022 Iranian thriller drama film co-written, directed and produced by Houman Seyedi, has started screening in cinemas throughout the country.
The movie won Venice’s Orizzonti awards for best Actor and best Film. It was selected as the Iran entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards.
Tanabandeh and Seyedi are among many members of Iran’s artistic and cultural community who have voiced support for the nationwide demonstrations sparked by the September 2022 death of a young woman in police custody and criticized the authorities’ brutal clampdown on dissent.
After the Islamic Republic hanged Mohsen Shekari in December, the first known execution in relation to the protests, Tanabandeh wrote, "It's an honor to have the same name as yours, dear Mohsen."
Seyedi dedicated his profile picture on Instagram to Kian Pirfalak, a nine-year-old boy killed by security forces during protests in November.
Some defiant artists and members of the literary community have been arrested, summoned or banned, with Islamic Republic officials accusing them of "fanning the flames of the riots."
Earlier this week, the minister of culture offered workspace to artists involved in protests on the condition that they express “regret,” after imposing a ban on women artists who remove their hijabs in public.