I met Iranian director Jafar Panahi back in 1996, shortly before his debut feature film “The White Balloon” picked up the Gold Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival — one of many prizes that film garnered. My interview has been lost to the sands of time (hard to believe, but there was a time when everything wasn’t archived on the Net) but I still recall my conversation with the soft-spoken director, and asking him about making films in a country with state censorship.

Panahi was diplomatic, but pointed out how censorship was also the mother of invention, that the inability to state something directly led to the poetics of saying it indirectly, a subtlety that Western cinema had perhaps lost along the way to total freedom of expression.

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