A gay Iranian man says his life was all but ruined when a team of documentary filmmakers shot an undercover exposé of gay culture in his country, DailyXTra reports.
Farzam Dadashzadeh is a gay Iranian refugee currently living in Vancouver. In a lawsuit filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia late last week, Dadashzadeh claims he was fired from his job, forced to drop out of school, disowned by his family, assaulted, and, ultimately, arrested and beaten by Iranian police all due to a documentary filmed without his consent.
Out in Iran: Inside Iran’s Secret Gay World explores gay life in a country where homosexuality is still punishable by death. Dadashzadeh was a closeted, 19-year-old college student and part-time hair stylist at the time it was shot in 2007. According to his lawsuit, no one asked for his permission prior to filming him inside the Jam-e-Jam café, a popular gay hangout Tehran.
In the scene, filmmakers follow a gay man named Mani, who agreed to be featured, to the restaurant. “Most of the people coming here tonight are homosexuals,” he tells the reporters, then says they “can’t take the camera in there like this.”
That’s when Evan Solomon, one of the filmmakers named in the suit, comes up with what he thought was a brilliant idea: “We keep our camera hidden,” he says over the footage, before later assuring audiences that all of the people inside were made aware and gave “group consent” to being depicted.
This, Dadashzadeh, was a simply not true.
The lawsuit goes on to say filmmakers made no attempt at blurring out anyone’s faces, and that Dadashzadeh can be plainly seen several times, “including several lingering ‘close-up’ images of his face and other identifying features.”
After the film was broadcast by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, it was uploaded to Youtube, where it garnered over 650,000 views. It was also shared on Facebook, where it can still be viewed.
Upon learning of the film’s existence, Dadashzadeh says he became “shocked and scared,” especially after his family found out. His parents disowned him and he “remains alienated” from them today, nearly 10 years later. On top of that, he says, the documentary brought unwanted attention to the Jam-e-Jam café. One day, a man who had seen the film specifically went there to cause trouble. He recognized Dadashzadeh and attacked him. When police were called, they took both men into custody.
And that’s when the nightmare went from bad to even worse.
Dadashzadeh says he spent two weeks behind bars. Police interrogated him about his homosexuality for hours. He was also “repeatedly sexually assaulted, which included being sodomized, beaten and kicked by other prisoners, with the knowledge and assistance of, and at the behest, of the police.”
After being released, he fled to Turkey before filing for refugee status and arrived in Canada in 2014. He has been trying to rebuild his life ever since.
Neither the filmmakers or the production company have responded to the lawsuit.