But those films were banned. Can we still expect Iran to produce great movies?
In our country, if they stop filmmakers from making movies in one way, they will always find another. Any movie that shows reality, people will try to see it, even if it's banned. They'll get it from satellite dishes and pirated DVDs. When Offside was banned, the whole country had copies of the DVD within two days. It reminds me of some lines of dialogue from The White Balloon [Panahi's 1995 film with a screenplay by his countryman director Abbas Kiarostami]. The little girl wants to see something, but her parents won't let her. When the grandmother asks her why she wants to anyway, she says, "I wanted to see what they didn't want me to see."
Unlike the Hollywood studios, then, you don't disapprove of having your work pirated.
The government actually thinks I'm behind the pirating. In the case of Offside, I asked them to let me release the film before the World Cup. They didn't let me, but 20 days before the World Cup, it was distributed in pirated copies. They thought this was my plan.
Will you be making new films?
I have a film about the last day of the Iran-Iraq War. I hope I can do it in Iran. If not, then somewhere else. But I prefer to do it in Iran. Maybe one day, I'll leave the country to make a movie. But now my goal is to make movies in Iran. I have a lot of stories prepared.
What film inspired you to become a filmmaker?
It was Bicycle Thieves [known in America as The Bicycle Thief] by Vittorio De Sica. At the beginning, Ricci has his bicycle stolen. In the end, he tries to steal a bicycle himself. It was such a big influence on me that I wanted to make The Circle. A new story on the same theme.
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