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An Open Letter to New Zealand Immigration Minister Hon Michael Woodhouse

By Simon Kilmurry

April 18, 2016

Dear Sir,

On behalf of the International Documentary Association, I am writing to express our deep alarm and concern at the recent rejection of a visa application for documentary filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami by Immigration New Zealand. Ghaemmaghami was scheduled to attend the prestigious Documentary Edge International Film Festival in May 2016.

Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami is an award-winning Iranian filmmaker who regularly shows her work at festivals all around the world – including throughout Europe and the US. Her recent film, Sonita, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. The film is scheduled to be screened at Documentary Edge, where Ghaemmaghami has also committed to teach a master class. 

Documentary film is one of the most vital forms of cultural exchange and dialogue. It is precisely this type of dialogue that leads to greater mutual understanding and is fundamental to a healthy democracy. 

Documentary Edge has built a highly respected reputation as a leading festival to which filmmakers and others around the world pay attention. It now risks having its reputation irreparably tarnished by this arbitrary decision.

The stated reason for the visa denial—"because we are not satisfied that you are a bona fide temporary entry applicant, genuinely intending a temporary stay in New Zealand"—is without basis, and smacks of profiling. There is no indication that Ghaemmaghami’s stay in New Zealand is anything other than temporary.

We strongly urge you to reconsider this decision and grant Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami a visa.


Simon Kilmurry

Executive Director