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May 2001, Week 1


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Darryl Wiggers <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 7 May 2001 01:58:10 -0400
text/plain (84 lines)
> It really frustrates me when
> such a clear case of abuse (assuming of course that everything Mr. Panahi
> said was true) is somehow excused.

Let's look at his "abuses" in his own words. I'm going to assmue that
everything is the truth:

"They asked for finger-printing and photography." Now, I have no idea how
U.S. Immigration laws work but I'm willing to bet that in lieu of having the
necessary transit visa, the photograph and fingerprinting would have
resolved this. Or at least improve the situation. Plus they were polite
enough to "ask." Not demand. His own words, remember. Instead...
HIS RECEATION: "I refused to do it"

"They threatened to put me in the jail if I would not do the
HIS REACTION: "I asked for an interpreter and to call" (an exception that,
if granted, would have to be granted to everyone. Can you imagine having an
interpreter available for all nationalities that go through JFK every day?)

He was then placed under arrest, chained and put in custody with others (as,
by his own words, they warned him they would if he didn't cooperate). Once
more he made requests to make a phone call, as did the Sri Lankan boy, and
this was refused. Again, an exception that, if granted, would have to be
granted to everyone.

Now, pardon me as a swerve off to make an analogy with cinema. Purely
fiction, of course. Imagine a crowd outside a major premiere at a film
festival. The theatre is full, the show is about the start and none of the
crowd outside has the proper ticket to gain entrance. Including someone with
a "Freedom of Expression" award who proceeds to go into a temper tandrem. If
the ticket person lets him through, the witnessing crowd would likely demand
similar admittance. Chaos. If you ever had to do similar work you quickly
realize that the best, and only, approach is to refuse everyone. No
exceptions. It's not about abuse. It's about maintaining order. And that's a
key job of any law enforcement officer.

Anyway, after ten hours "Another police man came to me and said that they
have to take my photograph."
HIS REACTION: "I said never." And he again refused the fingerprinting.

"At last, they accepted [his phone call request] and I could call Dr.
Jamsheed Akrami, the Iranian film professor of Columbia University, and I
explained to him the whole story. I requested him to convince them and as he
knows me well, I am not a guy to do what they were looking for." His point
here is a bit jumbled, but it basically suggests that he should have been
let through without proper documentation. Without photographing him. Without
fingerprinting him. In other words, allowed to forsake U.S. laws and

"Two hours later, a police man came to me and took my personal
photo [as he had demanded]. They chained me again and took me to a plane, a
plane that was going back to Hong Kong."

In my view if Mr Panahi wants to be treated with "respect and dignity" he
should show similar "respect and dignity" for the laws of the country he's
visiting, and the people who are empowered to enforce them. Things probably
would have gone differently. Instead he went into a power trip and he was
treated like every other man, woman and child -- as an equal. That's the
kind of America I like to hear about.

As for Edward's remarks:

> Actually, by detaining Mr. Panahi on no grounds whatever--other than his
> national origin--

He didn't have a transit visa, which is required. That's illegal entry.
Hardly "no grounds."

> by depriving him of legal counsel,

He never said he wanted a lawyer. And when he finally got his call he phoned
a film professor. Not a lawyer.

> by trying to obtain cooperation from him by means of force

What force? He refused to cooperate. They warned he would be detained if he
didn't. He still refused to cooperate, and they detained him. Exactly what
they said they would.

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