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Iran Outrage: Jafar Panahi Jailed

 

International reaction is building as news emerges from Iran that Jafar Panahi, one of that country's most internationally respected film artists, has been sentenced to a lengthy prison term. The Berlin International Film Festival is the first of many film institutions around the world to sharply condemn the harsh sentences handed down to the renowned Iranian director Jafar Panahi and his directing colleague Mohammed Rasulof. Accused of spreading “propaganda against the system”, Panahi has been sentenced to six years in prison and banned from practicing his profession for 20 years. Rasulof has also received a six-year prison sentence.

The announcement follows a year of uncertainty for the celebrated Iranian director, who was under house arrest for several months while he awaited a trial for treason. He was freed following protests from leading filmmakers and film institutions, but apparently the state of Iran is taking advantage of the distraction of the Holiday season to punish the director and his collaborator for their critique of the government's authoritarian methods and the lack of free speech that was promised as part of the Islamic revolution.

Jafar Panahi provides a critical perspective on the social situation in his homeland and he is a supporter of the opposition movement against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The conviction of both artists is an infringement of the freedom of opinion and the freedom of art. The unrestricted right of assembly and freedom of speech and opinion are not only a part of international human rights conventions, which Iran has signed, but also part of the Iranian Constitution which was instituted following the Islamic Revolution of the 1980s.

Panahi was at work on a new untitled project at the time of his arrest. His previous films THE CIRCLE (2000), CRIMSON GOLD (2003) and OFFSIDE (2006) have won many international prizes and were major international films of their years. Two Iranian filmmakers who are debuting politically-charged films at next month's Sundance Film Festival say that a groundswell of publicity and support from the international film community could play an important role for Panahi as he appeals yesterday's harsh 6-year prison sentence and 20-year ban from filmmaking. "The support will help," said Ali Samadii Ahadi, director of the documentary The Green Wave. "It is on us to make noise and create pressure so they will understand they have a duty to the Iranian population and the world."

In a prepared statement, Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick echoed the concerns of his international colleagues by being "very concerned and filled with indignation over the conviction of Jafar Panahi. It is shocking that a renowned director is punished so severely for his artistic work. Jafar Panahi can be sure he has our full support.”

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Circuit Editor

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About Festival Circuit

Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

Coverage of the world of film festivals on the international film festival circuit.


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