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Exiled Iranian Filmmakers Call Out AMPAS Over Omission Of Murdered Director Dariush Mehrjui From In Memoriam Segment

The Independent Iranian Filmmakers Association (IIFMA) has written to AMPAS to protest the omission of murdered director Dariush Mehrjui from the In Memoriam segment of the Academy Award on Sunday night.

As per Oscar tradition, the Academy paid tribute to a select group of 51 film and entertainment figures who had died over the previous year, including actor Matthew Perry, director William Friedkin, actor-performer Jane Birkin and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto in a short In Memoriam segment.

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Mehrjui was named instead on the Academy’s In Memoriam page on its website, alongside 279 recently deceased figures related to the film world, including the 51 people feted at the ceremony.

The director was stabbed to death alongside his screenwriter wife Vahideh Moahmmadifar in their home outside Tehran last October.

The unsolved killing came just months after he posted an online video blasting the Iranian government’s suppression of the film industry, raising suspicions that his murder could be a state-sponsored crime.

IIFMA, which was created in 2023 in the wake of Iran’s Woman Life Freedom protests to represent filmmakers not affiliated with the oppressive Islamic Republic government, said the Academy’s In Memoriam website mention for Mehrjui was not enough.

“The exclusion of Dariush Mehrjui from your In Memoriam segment, a man who made such significant contributions to world cinema and fought for artistic freedom, is deeply disheartening,” wrote the body.

IIFMA noted Mehrjui’s role as one of founders of the Iranian New Wave in 1970s, suggesting he had helped put Iranian cinema on the global map and paved the way for the likes of Abbas Kiarostami and Asghar Farhadi.

It also recalled that Mehrjui’s The Cycle (Dayerey Mina) was the first Iranian film to be officially submitted to the Oscars for the 1977-78 50th edition, after winning the FIPRESCI prize at Berlin Film Festival and playing numerous other festivals including Chicago.

Other milestone works included The Cow (1969), which won prizes in Venice and Berlin; The Postman (1972), The Lady (1992) and Sara (1993)

“Dariush Mehrjui was a prominent figure, a maestro whose works did not merely entertain but enlightened and challenged us, pushing the boundaries of thought and perception. He was a rebellious artist who used the medium of cinema to highlight the social issues that often remained unseen or deliberately ignored,” wrote IIFMA.

“Mehrjui’s courageous stand against oppression and censorship for several decades was an act of remarkable bravery. His protest video, which was released less than six months before his brutal murder, was a call for artistic freedom and a testament to his unwavering dedication to the cause. It is beyond speculation to say he paid the ultimate price for his refusal to be silenced; his life was cut short in a tragic and shocking act of violence just five months ago.”

IIFMA called on the Academy to make a “more fitting tribute” to Mehrjui’s life, work, legacy and murder on its website, social media and other affiliated media outlets.

“Mehrjui’s memory and contribution to the world of cinema should not be forgotten but celebrated and remembered for generations to come,” it wrote. “We believe that his sacrifice, his life, and his work deserve recognition on the global stage, such as the Academy Awards.”

The letter was spearheaded by California-based Iranian film critic and cultural events organizer Mahshid Zamani Bozorgnia.

She has been involved in attempts to probe the circumstances around Mehrjui’s death as a consultant on BBC World Service producer Hassan Solhjou’s upcoming documentary Sunset Somberness.

Solhjou’s film delves into Mehrjui’s life, his persona as rebellious artist who faced censorship under both the Shah’s regime and the Islamic Republic, and his recent support of the Woman Life Freedom movement.

IIFMA screened the work-in-progress documentary as a market screening at the Berlin Film Festival in February as way of a tribute to Mehrjui.

Deadline has contacted the Academy for a response.

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