I hate to sound like a cynic, but seriously.
Appreciate though I may the films of Jafar Panahi, I would not stoop
to call cinematic gifts a substitute for legal papers or legal comportment.
Every nation has the right to determine whom it will admit into its borders
and under what circumstances. Visas are one of the ways in which each
nation (or each concerned nation) controls and accounts for its visitors.
Requiring a visa is not refusing entry -- it is a means of permitting it.
Even if Mr. Panahi's statements about United Airlines staff or festival
directors are true, surely he -- like any of us -- is fully aware that
neither airline personnel nor film festival organizers are experts in such
matters. Any more than immigration officials should be expected to recognize
film festival invitations or hold them significant as immigration documents.
Now Mr. Panahi is a man self-professedly "obsessed with social issues." So
surely, despite his mock surprise and haughty indignation, he was aware not
only of U.S. entry requirements, but also of the familiar protest by certain
political activists against what they represent as the U.S. practice of
fingerprinting and photographing persons from nations listed for their
association with terrorism against the U.S. Perhaps there are those among us
who hold it unreasonable to request identification data of any visitor to the
nation, even if that visitor comes from a nation at odds with our policy
and/or people, or (as Panahi proved himself to be) clearly antagonistic to
its laws and standards. But is it really the right of the visitor to demand
entry on his terms?
Mr. Panahi, by his own admission, refused to comply with our laws and
regulations, and then protested being treated like a criminal. But I've got
news for Mr. Panahi and his supporters -- someone who has refused to comply
with our laws and regulations is, by definition, a criminal.
Perhaps not everyone would agree that he seems to have knowingly and
deliberately played the system to manipulate a behavior from the officers and
then to provoke a certain response from among us against that behavior.
Perhaps not everyone would agree that there is an angle at which this seems
to be just so much drumming up of publicity for his film and its topic.
But me, I suspect that his "unconscious smile" looking down from the plane
had at very least a mission-accomplished edge, topped only by his description
of it in the letter posted here.
Shari L. Rosenblum
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