- Associated Press - Monday, March 12, 2012

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian authorities canceled a ceremony Monday in honor of the country’s Oscar-winning director even though the government had hailed his win as a triumph over a competitor from Israel.

The event for Asghar Farhadi, whose movie “A Separation” won the Oscar last month for best foreign film, was scrapped abruptly after authorities denied permission, according to the semiofficial Ilna news agency.

There were no details on why a permit was denied, but some Iranian conservatives were upset with the film’s themes: domestic turmoil, gender inequality and the desire by many to leave the country.

Ilna said two cinema groups, the Center for Directors of Iranian Cinema and the High Council of Producers of Iranian Cinema, issued a statement decrying the cancellation. All public events in Iran need government approval.

“We intended to have a simple and friendly meeting to say ‘Thank you’ for the great achievement you brought Iran and Iranian cinema, but the cultural custodians did not let us realize this,” the statement said, addressing Mr. Farhadi.

“We deeply regret this,” the statement added. There was no immediate reaction from Mr. Farhadi.

Iran had welcomed Mr. Farhadi’s Oscar as the movie beat an Israeli film and three others in the foreign-language category, describing it as a conquest for Iranian culture and a blow for Israel’s perceived outsized influence in America.

But Iranian hard-liners also were upset by the movie’s exposure of troubles in Iranian society through the story of a collapsing marriage.

Authorities have long had an uneasy relationship with the country’s filmmakers, and influential clerics often have denounced domestic cinema as dominated by Western-tainted liberals and political dissenters. Some directors and actors have faced arrest or fled the country.

In January, authorities ordered the closure of the House of Cinema, an independent film group that had operated for 20 years and counted Iran’s top filmmakers, including Mr. Farhadi, among its members.

Last year, film director Jafar Panahi, who won awards at Cannes, Venice and other major film festivals, was sentenced to six years of house arrest and a 20-year ban on filming after being convicted of “making propaganda” against Iran’s ruling system.

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