From Iran: Interview with Filmmaker James Longley

07/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

James Longley, director of Gaza Strip and Iraq in Fragments, is in Iran filming a new documentary about a junior high school in the village of Pul. You can read his previous dispatch from Tehran here.

What have been your primary means of communication both inside and outside of Iran?

Email. The SMS network has been down since the night before the June 12 election. The mobile phones, both domestic and international, have been spotty at best. Skype comes and goes. Email is the only form of communication that has continued working consistently during this crisis. I have also posted many of my experiences to a documentary filmmaking online community,

What is the status of your translator? Is he still with you and safe?

We were both released after about 20 minutes. But those 20 minutes were long enough for my translator to be brutally beaten by Iranian police. He has since recovered but has had trouble walking normally for the last week.

It has been interesting to note that the Iranian government-controlled PressTV later ran an article on their website to spin our detention, saying that I have been making a documentary about the Iranian elections; the article mentions that we had been detained but failed to mention any of the violence toward my translator. The article then proceeds to list a number of filming locations in Iran supposedly included in my "election documentary" -- places I haven't visited in over a year.

I am not making a documentary about the elections. I am currently banned from filming like all other foreign journalists.

Are you still shooting for your film or has that jeopardized your safety to the point where you have stopped?

My documentary film project -- the one I received my visa to make -- is about a junior high school in the village of Pul, in the Caspian Sea province of Mazandaran. Since the elections I have not been back to this village, and I am not sure at the moment whether I will be allowed to continue working on that project.

As far as filming current events in Iran -- this has been declared illegal by the government. Also, there has been an active effort to scapegoat the foreign media and blame them for the violence and tension following the elections. I expect that this broad-brush anti-foreign media propaganda will make it quite difficult for me to work here in the future. It may be that I will have to abandon my Iranian project and work on other subjects outside Iran, where I will not be subject to such a prohibitive level of violence and censorship.

Continue reading the interview.