Last month (Sep11), the Iranian government arrested six independent filmmakers for allegedly working with the BBC, on charges including espionage and treason.
The arrests sparked outrage around the world and now leading entertainment industry organisations have joined forces to demand the directors' release.
A statement from the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reads, "As an international organization representing over 6000 artists in 35 countries, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is deeply concerned whenever and wherever the rights of filmmakers are threatened.
"We join our colleagues around the world in calling unequivocally for these filmmakers' safety, release, and return to filmmaking. They deserve the same, full freedom of expression that the overwhelming majority of our members enjoy every day, no matter where they are from, no matter where they work, no matter what their beliefs."
And a statement from the Board of Governors of the American Society of Cinematographers reads, "We foster the collaboration of cinematographers and the creative exchange of ideas and issues of mutual concern to our members and to the global filmmaking community. We are deeply concerned whenever and wherever the rights of filmmakers are threatened. We share these concerns with our fellow guilds and film organizations: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), The Directors Guild of America (DGA), The Producers Guild of America (PGA), The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), The Writers Guilds of America East and West (WGA), the American Cinema Editors (ACE) and the International Documentary Association (IDA)."
The groups are also upset about the ordeal of Iranian actress Marzieh Vafamehr, who was sentenced to "one year in jail and 90 lashes" for playing a role in an acclaimed film, and the continued house arrest of director Jafar Panahi.
Forget Black Swan – Natalie Portman’s real crowning performance is to be found in the romantic comedy No Strings Attached in which director Ivan Reitman asks her to convey sincere unqualified affection for Ashton Kutcher. Portman much to her credit gamely complies and though she may not have the emaciated figure bloody nails and bandaged ankles to tell of her labors the psychic scars must no doubt be just as severe.
Exhibiting strong chick-flick leanings and a rambunctious soft-R comic tone (i.e. lots of F-bombs some menstrual humor and a few shots of Kutcher’s naked ass) No Strings Attached is built around a basic relationship role-reversal: The dude Adam (Kutcher) longs for a deeper lasting commitment; the chick Emma (Portman) insists on keeping matters purely physical. Emma’s motive is a practical one: As a doctor-to-be her busy residency schedule with its 80-hour work weeks and intensive exam preparations precludes a serious relationship. But alas a woman has certain needs (foreplay apparently not being among them) and who better to fulfill them than Kutcher’s non-threatening boy-toy?
Thus a “friends with benefits” arrangement is cemented whereupon the ripcord is to be pulled on the occasion that either of them develops stronger feelings. This does not last long for soon Adam is cloyingly lobbying for escalation. Emma demurs – not out of disinterest we are told but because she’s intimacy-averse and afraid of a broken heart. Why else would she resist a more permanent attachment to someone like Adam?
Perhaps it’s because Adam as played by Kutcher is about as interesting as cabbage. And yet No Strings Attached would have us believe he’s some kind of floppy-haired Albert Schweitzer. This despite the fact that his greatest aspiration in life is to join the writing staff of a High School Musical-esque television series the shallow inanity of which is one of the film’s recurring jokes. In vain support of his cause the filmmakers decorate Adam’s apartment with various props – vintage posters books about 1920s movies a guitar that is occasionally picked up but never actually played – that hint at a depth that Kutcher himself never manifests.
Still Portman sells us on Adam and Emma’s inevitable union with every ounce of her not inconsiderable talent. (And her comic chops are legit – as those who’ve glimpsed her appearances on SNL and Funny or Die can attest.) But she asks too much. And Elizabeth Meriweather’s script while witty and stocked with some keen observations on the evolving nature of relationships in the modern age becomes weighed down by sentiment unbecoming an R-rated comedy not directed by Judd Apatow. In the end Kutcher seals the increasingly contrived deal with the climactic line “I’m warning you: Come one step closer and I’m never letting you go ” (I’m paraphrasing but not loosely) by which time the film's already lost its grip.
The An Education star was initially cast as the young female lead, Rose, in the picture, but dropped out to concentrate on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Rising star Andrea Riseborough replaced Mulligan, but investors feared the film would not be able to pull in cinema audiences without a big name attached, and they threatened to drop out of funding the production.
Director Rowan Joffe set out to cast a famous face - and he was relieved when Mirren stepped in to play the older female lead, Ida.
He tells Britain's Telegraph magazine, "(Mulligan) walked off to go and do Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, which is a perfectly respectable decision. She had to do what she thought was right. But that did cause us some quite serious problems.
"(Mulligan's departure) seriously damaged the investors' confidence in the project. (Distribution company) Studio Canal and (co-producers) Optimum Releasing were very supportive, but they basically said, 'The movie isn't happening unless you land us a name'. It was teetering on the brink.
"(I) went hell for leather in pursuit of Helen Mirren, whom I'd always imagined as an Ida, but who hadn't been available to play the role initially. And thank goodness she was available to shoot the movie. Because that, in a sense, did greenlight us."