Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami, who was lined up to direct English National Opera (ENO)’s Così fan tutte, has dropped out due to his frustrations with the British visa application process. The 68-year-old, considered by many to be the father of modern Iranian cinema, condemned the visa system as ‘unduly time-consuming and hugely complicated’ in The Independent.
Kiarostami is not the only prominent arts figure to have had problems with obtaining a British visa: in March the Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov cancelled his sole British performance due to visa problems and in the same month 60 prominent arts figures, including sculptor Antony Gormley and the National Theatre’s Nicholas Hytner, publicly denounced the Home Office’s stringent visa rules.
Though ENO has expressed huge disappointment over the situation, Kiarostami confirms that ‘they respected my position and my principles in spite of the obvious fact that I was putting them in a very precarious and disagreeable position.’
‘These checks are a crucial part of securing the border,’ says a spokesperson from the UK Border Agency in The Independent, referring to the obligatory fingerprinting and British embassy interviews all visa applicants must obtain, ‘and they are not something we will apologise for’.