BERLIN - An Iranian movie, made against the backdrop of last year's election campaign and centring on a man whose wife is killed in a shootout between police and demonstrators, made its debut Tuesday at the Berlin film festival.
Director Rafi Pitts said he received authorization to make "The Hunter" from Iranian authorities and shot it before the violence that followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election last June.
Pitts, who grew up in Tehran but has lived in Britain and France since, said he had "no idea" when the film might be shown in Iran.
"I don't think it's a one-sided film, so I think it has the right to be shown," he said at a news conference. "The question is, will they give me the right?"
The film's main character, played by the director, is released from prison amid talk of upcoming elections and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, talking on the radio about change.
He tries to spend time with his wife and young daughter, but they are accidentally killed in a shootout. Pitts' character, Ali, randomly shoots dead two policemen on a city highway, after a long and frustrating wait for information, and flees before being nabbed by two officers who argue about what to do with their captive.
Pitts insisted that the film depicts a "Kafkaesque situation (that) relates to many countries, it's a universal theme."
"A script is a road map, and with that road map you will then make your film inspired by anything that surrounds you," he said. "It happened to be that we were shooting the film during the elections."
"When the (postelection) events took place, of course I felt a lot of pain for what happened, of course I disagree with it, but . . . I can't foresee the future in that way," he added. Demonstrators' chants can be heard off-camera in the film.
"The Hunter" is one of 20 films competing for the festival's top Golden Bear prize, which will be awarded Saturday.
It is the latest of several Iranian films to compete in Berlin in recent years, including Pitts' "It's Winter" in 2006. Jafar Panahi's "Offside," a film following girls who disguise themselves as boys to sneak into a football match in Tehran, won a runner-up Silver Bear the same year.
Panahi, whose "The Circle" won the Venice film festival's top Golden Lion prize in 2000, was scheduled to attend a panel discussion on Iranian cinema in Berlin, but organizers said Tuesday that he had been denied permission to leave Iran.
"We are surprised and deeply regret that a director who has won so many international prizes has been denied the possibility to take part . . . and to speak about his cinematic visions," festival director Dieter Kosslick said in a statement.
Panahi was briefly detained during a July demonstration in Tehran and wore a green scarf - the opposition's colour - at a Montreal festival last summer. In apparent retaliation, authorities barred him and others from travelling to another festival in October.
"I believe in freedom of speech," Pitts said. "I think that he should be here."