The special prize of Jerusalem Festival 2013 was presented to Mohsen Makhmalbaf for his lifelong artistic achievements towards liberty.
At the time of receiving this prize, Mohsen Makhmalbaf said: Politics have always separated us from each other. May art, morality and mutual respect between human beings bring us together again.
This prize belongs to all the people who struggle for peace between Iran, Israel, and Palestine. I also wish to present this prize to one of the characters in the film, The Gardener, Mr. Gillaum from Rwanda in Africa, the person who lost eight members of his family to the genocides in Rwanda, but managed to overcome hatred and forgive his enemies, even forget their wrongdoings. In the hatred-ridden world in which we live he is a model. He is a person similar to Gandhi and Mandela.
Then Mohsen Makhmalbaf invited Gillaum, the actor from the Gardener to the stage and presented his prize to him.
Before screening the film, The Gardner, Mohsen Makhmalbaf said: For more than sixty years the Palestinian-Israeli question has remained unresolved. All human beings are guilty in this saga. It seems that in such matters, humanity has not yet reached maturity and has remained in its childhood, but a child who has lost its innocence instead of gaining its maturity.
The crisis which afflicts us today is not an economic one, as assumed everywhere, but a moral one.
Look at Syria. One hundred thousand people have been killed and no one is doing anything to stop this, neither the West nor the East; neither United Stated, nor Europe or the United Nations; neither the ordinary people nor the world’s intelligentsia.
It is in the new civilization that we have created that we should look for the roots of this moral crisis and, as its result, the economic crisis. Our new civilization has forced us to compete with each other rather than cooperate with each other.
None of us is happy with this life of competition and racing. All those who lose in the competitions are unhappy. These competitions have only one winner, and the one who wins is always fearful that he may lose in the next round. Has this competitive civilization made us happy? Have we have not had enough of competition, this economic and power competition?
In order to be the winner in this competition, every one of us is busy ruining the world. If we remembered that we live in the same planet, we would not try to make atomic bombs to defend the political boundaries that have divided the human beings. We would make no attempt preemptive attacks because to avoid atomic bombs. We would rather support peace, friendship and cooperation between the nations through culture, arts, human morality, and justice.
After sixty years of war between the Arabs and Israelis, is it not yet the time to think of other means instead of war and politics, for instance, preventing the growing religious and racial hatred through culture, arts, morality, and mutual respect among people?
In relation to the problems between Iran and Israel, Mohsen Makhmalbaf said: None of the Iranians support Israel’s attack on Iran. And if you do attack, you will have extended the war all over the world. The case of the atomic bomb is the case of bludgeon and the bludgeoner. You want to control the bludgeon; Iranians want to remove the bludgeoner so that there would be no need for the bludgeon.
With regard to humane reasons, there are thousands of reasons for establishing peace and friendship between nations, including between the Israeli and Iranian people, but there is not even a single reason for animosity. The people of Iran and the people of Israel love each other. During the three days that I have been here, whenever I talked of friendship and peace, it was welcomed beyond imagination. I have told myself, if you are so keen about peace and friendship with the people of Iran and are so much against war that you show it so openly and enthusiastically, on whose behalf, then, the government of Israel wants to attack Iran?
We love you. You, too, love us. And the love between these two nations will prevent the war.
In the Israel of a few million people, there are a few hundred thousands of Iranian Jews. Any one of them that I meet, his or her first wish is to visit Iran again. Many of them burst into tears when they hear the name of Iran. And they talk of their memories. It is amazing, really amazing. Many of those who are in Iran want to leave Iran. And many of those who are outside Iran cry for returning to Iran. I have seen this happening in all the countries. But in Israel, more than anywhere else, Iranian Jews love to visit Iran again.
Would the time come when the Iranians, Palestinians, Syrians, and the Afghans would not flee their countries because of war and dictatorship, or cry for visiting their countries again?
If there is a God, and He has wanted some of the Jews to be born in Iran, who can allow himself to dispel them throughout the world? Not only the Jews, but also the Christians, Sunnis, Bahá’ís, Sufis, and we, the Iranian intellectuals are divided into two groups. Of course, both groups yearn for peace. But one group, apart from yearning, struggles for it as well. The other group is sitting, waiting for Israel to attack, and then issue statements condemning Israel. Why not light a candle rather than curse the darkness.
In the press conference organized for the international media, Mohsen Makhmalbaf said: For the first time the way to Israel for the Iranian cinema was opened with my film, Gabbeh, and although I was faced with fierce attacks from left and right, was also interrogated in Iran, and Mirsalim, the Minister of Culture, and I got involved in a media war, nevertheless, the way to Israel was later opened, without any pressure on the part of Israel, for the films of various film-makers, whether independent or governmental. And that is wonderful! If today, the people of Israel love Iran and the Iranians, it is not due to Ahmadinezhad’s pleasantries regarding the destruction of Israel. It is due to the few hundred thousand Iranian Jews who live in Israel and to the Iranian films that are shown in Israeli cinemas.
I am honored to have opened the way to Israel for Iranian cinema. And now, I am honored to be opening the way for traveling [to Israel]. I will face attacks, and that does not matter. I have seen it all. But tomorrow, when others will also come and cultural and artistic friendships will develop, I will not blame those who have blamed me.
In the absence of cultural ambassadors, political ambassadors and military consultants will take their places. And the result will be what we have seen so far. If we do not want to end up with the same endless wars, let us not walk the same path again.
Before we are men or women, before we are artists or politicians, before we are Iranians, Israelis, or Palestinians, we are human beings. Our human dignity is more valuable than our nationalities, ethnicities, or religions. What has been sacrificed more than anything else in wars, is our common human dignity. I have come to Israel to tell you that I love you and respect you, and I expect respect, friendship and peace from you, too.
We both live on the same planet, but we have been so distanced from each other that in my trip here I felt like the person who travelled to the moon for the first time. I have arrived on your moon with the message of friendship, message of peace. What is the fault of the future children of Palestine, Israel, Iran, Syria and Lebanon, if we, their parents, have not become mature before we became their parents? Let us, for the sake of our children, give up animosity, boycotts, threats, and war. Syria has reached the point of one hundred thousand killed, how many more Syrians do we want to be killed? Why does not someone do something?
The films, Gabbeh, Salam Cinema, A Moment of Innocence, Kandahar, and The Gardener have been screened in cooperation with CinemaTech and Jerusalem Festival several times, in theaters full of audiences. The welcome given to the Gardener, led the Festival to repeat its screening on the following days as well.
International and Israeli media have widely reflected the presence of Mohsen Makhmalbaf and the screening of his films. Below you will see some of them.