Iranian film director declined entry to NZ

Iranian film director declined entry to NZ

An Iranian film director has been declined entry to New Zealand ahead of the upcoming Documentary Edge Festival.

Immigration New Zealand says it's not confident hers will be a temporary stay, but the festival director and the director of the film herself say something quite different.

The documentary Sonita is about a 14-year-old Afghan refugee in Iran pursuing a career as a hip-hop MC, a move that puts her at odds with her home country's authoritarian regime.

Iranian film maker Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami was looking forward to discussing it at the Documentary Edge Festival in Auckland and Wellington next month.

But now, that's off. Immigration New Zealand has declined her visiting visa, because she's considered a risk of becoming an over-stayer.

"They said that I don't have close enough ties to my home country and that they don't think I'm a real visitor," she says.

Ghaemmaghami believes she's been declined because of her nationality.

"Because I have an Iranian passport it doesn't matter who I am or what I'm doing, they'll just deny my application."

Festival director Dan Shanan is disappointed his star attraction won't get to discuss her work with Kiwi viewers and he's furious about the decision to not let her enter the country.

"It's a blow to the festival as well, to the reputation of the festival, but I think more for the country too. What kind of a message are we sending out there to the world?"

Immigration New Zealand declined to comment today and festival organisers say they've heard nothing from it on the issue, but they say they haven't given up on getting the star filmmaker to New Zealand, today setting up a petition to try and get her in.

Ghaemmaghami's film is about Sonita Aalizad's battle with the Afghan authorities. The director's own battle with New Zealand authorities means she won't be able to showcase it here.