Iranian stars of TIFF film denied entry into Canada

As the new Iranian film Ava enjoys its debut at the TIFF this weekend, it will have to do so without the presence of its two stars.

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Director Sadaf Foroughi attends the Toronto International Film Festival announcement of their Canadian features for this year's program in Toronto, Wednesday August 9 , 2017. - CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANADIAN PRESS

As the new Iranian film Ava enjoys its debut at the TIFF this weekend, it will have to do so without the presence of its two stars.

According to reports, the Canadian government denied travel visas to Iranian performers Shayesteh Sajadi, 18, and Mahour Jabbari, 17. Ava‘s director Sadaf Foroughi, an Iranian-born Canadian citizen, said her two young actors were denied entry after applying for a travel visa through Canada’s embassy in Turkey.

According to a letter received by Sajadi and excerpted in The Hollywood Reporter, the government was not satisfied “that you would leave Canada at the end of your stay as a temporary resident.” A Globe and Mail request for comment from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has not been returned.

Sajadi appears in the film alongside Jabbari, the latter of whom plays the drama’s title character, an upper-class teen in Tehran whose relationship with her parents takes a severe turn after questions arise about her relationship with a local boy. The film, a co-production between Iran, Canada and Qatar, made its world premiere at TIFF on Friday night, and will continue to screen this Sunday and next Sunday for the public.

“I was surprised to have this news and of course, so sad,” Foroughi told The Globe and Mail over email. “But now I am so much looking forward to our premiere here in the country where I live and love. What is important for me is all the supports and kindness Ava and I have received so far from the festival, especially from [TIFF programmers] Magali Simard and Steve Gravestock.”

“The girls are so happy that we all care about them here,” she added. “Altogether, we are looking forward to our audience’s feedback.”

Last week, Foroughi was announced as one of the 15 nominees for the 2017 Directors Guild of Canada Discovery Award. This year’s award winner will be announced at the annual DGC gala on Oct. 28.

In 2014, Foroughi was at the centre of a dispute with Canadian customs officers, who seized an art installation that was shipped from Iran to Montreal. She eventually received a permit from Foreign Affairs to release her work, which was part of a federally subsidized art project.

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