Top Iran filmmaker says sick children paying price for sanctions

AFP
Iranian director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad arrives for the screening of her movie "Ghessea", or "Tales", presented in competition at the 71st Venice Film Festival on August 28, 2014 at Venice Lido
Iranian director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad arrives for the screening of her movie "Ghessea", or "Tales", presented in competition at the 71st Venice Film Festival on August 28, 2014 at Venice Lido (AFP Photo/Tiziana Fabi)

Venice (AFP) - Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemad on Thursday urged the West to lift sanctions on her country as she presented her latest film at the Venice Film Festival, laying bare their devastating effects on the population.

"The economic situation in Iran is critical due to the sanctions, which penalise the people. They must be lifted, and the people compensated," said the award-winning director, known for her socially-driven documentaries and films.

"Our sick children, those with cancer or multiple sclerosis for example, are paying the price," she said in reference to US and EU sanctions imposed in a bid to deter Iran from developing its uranium enrichment program.

Hundreds of thousands of seriously-ill Iranians are affected by both dire shortages of life-saving medicines and their inability to pay for them.

Under an interim agreement with world powers which came into effect in January, Iran agreed to scale back part of its nuclear programme in return for a partial lifting of Western sanctions. November has been set as the deadline for a final deal.

"When will people realise that it is the people who suffer the consequences of international decisions?" she asked at a press conference on Lido island.

Her latest film "Tales" is a collection of stories highlighting the difficulties the lower classes face in today's society, from unemployed factory workers to poor or drug-addled women or those at risk of domestic violence.

We hear from the characters that prices have shot up 40 percent and people are going months without getting paid, while one distraught woman unable to pay for the medicine her child needs tries to sell her body.

The stories take us all over Bani-Etemad's Tehran, with tales of patriarchal abuse, forced imprisonment and prostitution unfolding in taxis, trains and buses -- each marked by fear, but also acts of courage and love.