Thiruvananthapuram: Iranian filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi sent a few strands of her hair to the 27th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) that honoured her with the 'Spirit of Cinema' award during its inauguration here on Friday.
A large section of Iranian women have been cutting their hair and burning their hijabs as part of a widespread public outcry that began in September after the nation's morality police killed 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for flouting dress rules.
With Mahnaz prohibited from leaving her country, Greek filmmaker and jury member, Athina Rachel Tsangari, received the 'Spirit of Cinema' award on her behalf. She then held up Mahnaz's hair at the venue with the audience reciprocating with a huge round of applause.
"This is my hair cut short to show my suffering. This symbolises the end of my suffering," Tsangari read out Mahnaz's message.
Tsangari urged the audience, an assembly of movie lovers from various nations, to repeat after her the now famous chant by Iran's protesting women: 'Zen, Zendegi, Azadi' meaning 'Women, Life, Freedom'. The audience joined in chorus as Tsangari repeated Mahnaz's words.
With the hair strands still held up, Tsangari continued with the message: "Im' sending you this because these days we all need solidarity to reclaim our natural rights."
Mahnaz has been a vocal participant of the nationwide uprising in Iran where hundreds have reportedly been killed over protests.
'If the mind is fearless, heads are always held high'
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who inaugurated the IFFK, hailed Mahnaz for her valiant works.
"The situation in the countries that regard a race or community as superior and build its governments based on this segregation is reflected in the works of filmmakers like Mehnaz," said the chief minister.
"Where the mind is fearless, heads are always held high," Vijayan said quoting Rabindranath Tagore. "To live without fear is the primary meaning of freedom. Each film festivals must ensure this freedom," he said.
Mahnaz's works include 'Women Without Shadows', 'Travelouge' and 'We Are Half the Iran's Population'. Her 2019 feature film, 'Son Mother' premiered at the 44th Toronto International Film Festival.