The filmmakers behind "Iranium" and the Canadian government have hit back at the Iranian government and protestors, who they claim helped shut down a screening of the documentary in Ottawa on Tuesday night. The film centers on the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The movie was supposed to screen at the National Library and Archives in Canada's capitol but was cancelled after the library was bombarded with threats and received a suspicious package.
The Iranian Embassy reportedly sent a letter to the library asking it to pull the screening the weekend before the event was supposed to happen.
"Iranium is quickly turning into the film Iran's leaders don't want you to see. That Iranian leaders would try to stifle free speech in North America perfectly displays the distinct difference in values instilled in Iran versus the West," Alex Traiman, the documentary's director, said in a statement. "Announcements about the film have already appeared on pro-regime websites in Farsi."
The screening had been paid for by a group called the Free Thinking Film Society, who criticized the library for capitulating to the threats.
“It’s like the Iranians have set something in motion and they’re able to shut down a film in the capital of Canada,” the society's manager Fred Litwin told the Toronto Sun.
The National Archives building was closed down by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and emergency vehicles and a HAZMAT unit were dispatched to the building.
"The Iranian Embassy will not dictate to the Government of Canada which films will or will not be shown in Canada," stated Canada's Minister of Heritage James Moore.
Narrated by Iranian actress, Shohreh Aghdashloo ("The House of Sand and Fog"), the film features interviews with politicians, Iranian dissidents, and Middle East experts, according a description of the movie provided by the filmmakers.
This fresh controversy comes on the heels of the imprisonment of filmmaker Mohammed Rasoulof by the Iranian government. Panahi was convicted on Dec. 18 of colluding against the Islamic Republic and sentenced to 6 years in prison and a 20-year ban on filmmaking as well as travel from Iran. His imprisonment inspired an international protest from Free Speech advocates and Hollywood filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese.