Sonita director Roksareh Ghaemmaghami might now be a no-show for this year’s Doc Edge Festival and Screen Edge Forum, having been denied a visa by NZ Immigration Service.
Ghaemmaghami (pictured top, right, with the film’s subject, Sonita Alidazeh) was to visit NZ to present Sonita in the festival and give a masterclass at the Screen Edge Forum.
Immigration wasn’t convinced Iranian-born Ghaemmaghami would leave NZ, its visa denial saying “we are not satisfied that you are a bona fide temporary entry applicant, genuinely intending a temporary stay in New Zealand”.
The decision smacks more of mistake than malice, since the decision “doesn’t recognise” the Doc Edge Festival. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which probably knows a little more about film festivals than most NZIS staff, had no trouble recognising it last year when the Academy invited Doc Edge to become an Oscar-qualifying festival.
However, it’s hard to imagine that a European male filmmaker who’d just won two gongs at Sundance would have been denied a visa for the same reasons.
An official from the US offices of NZIS has today contacted Doc Edge. The official acknowledged the concerns expressed over the denial of the visa and told Doc Edge’s Executive Director Dan Shanan that the decision would be reviewed once staff return to work tomorrow (Monday, US time).
In the meantime Doc Edge has started a petition to lobby for Ghaemmaghami to be granted a visa.
Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami’s Sonita
The denial of Ghaemmaghami’s visa is the second visa denial in a fortnight that’s affected a film festival here.
François Akouabou, festival director of Burkina Faso’s FESPACO festival, was denied a visa to visit New Zealand two weeks ago. Akouabou was to travel here to attend the African Film Festival, of which FESPACO is a partner. During his proposed visit to NZ, Akouabou was to sign a MOU with the African Film Festival’s founder, Boubacar Coulibaly. for closer co-operation between the two festivals.
The Doc Edge Festival will run 4-15 May at the Roxy, Wellington; and 18-29 May at Q Theatre, Auckland. The Screen Edge Forum will run 13 May at Park Road Post and 18 May at AUT. DOC Pitch will run 19 May at AUT.