AN Iranian actress will be jailed for a year and lashed 90 times for starring in an Australian film production about the Western influence on life in the Islamic republic.
Actress Marzieh Vafamehr was the main character of the 2009 feature film My Tehran for Sale, The Advertiser reported.
The film was jointly funded by the South Australian Film Corporation and the Adelaide Film Festival.
She was arrested in June after black market copies of the film began circulating in Tehran, showing Vafamehr in some scenes without an Islamic hijab which covers the hair and neck.
Vafamehr’s family had requested a Western media blackout of the case since her arrest but on Sunday the Iranian opposition website Kalameh.com went public with news of the actress’s harsh punishment.
Adelaide co-producer of the film, Kate Croser, of Cyan Films, said the company had offered assistance to the family but would maintain a public silence on the verdict until it could determine if their wishes on Western commentary on the case had changed.
“There is an appeal which could be lengthy and the family may still believe that public comment will be unhelpful because they are going through all the official channels,” she said.
“We can say the charges were that there was no permit for filming, which is not true, and that in some scenes Marzieh was not wearing a hijab and had a shaved head.”
Supporters of Vafamehr were yesterday meeting to offer support to the family, including organising an Australian lobbying effort through the film’s Iranian-born director Granaz Moussavi, who now lives in Melbourne.
The movie’s plot is based in part on Moussavi’s own life and that of her friend Vafamehr but also on stories the Flinders University film graduate was told when she volunteered as a translator at the Woomera detention centre.
Internet images of officially administered lashings in Iran show victims being placed face down in a prone position and then being whipped with a long stick on the upper legs, back and buttocks.
In 2008, Vafamehr, Moussavi and South Australian producers Croser and Julie Ryan filmed the movie in Tehran and brought the footage back to Adelaide for post production.
Vafamehr plays the character of a young actress in Tehran whose theatre work is banned by the authorities.
She is then forced to lead a secret life in order to express herself artistically while at the same time trying to migrate to Australia.
The 2009 film was highly controversial in Iran only because it showed footage of uninhibited modernised Iranians at Western-style rave parties.
Footage of those scenes would normally be censored by authorities for being subversive.
Family First MLC Dennis Hood said he would contact Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd today urging the Federal Government to offer assistance to the family