Mike Fleming

The conviction and 6-year sentence given acclaimed Iranian director Jafar Panahi and his colleague Muhammad Rasoulof happened when most major directors had left town for the holiday, and has made it difficult to mobilize a concerted response. But help is on the way, as those imprisoned filmmakers plan their appeal. I’m told that Amnesty International is mobilizing an urgent petition that will be unveiled right after Christmas and which is being spearheaded by Crash director Paul Haggis. Another petition has been organized by Thierry Fremaux, festival director of Cannes. Harvey Weinstein is part of the Amnesty International campaign, and Sean Penn is involved in both efforts. The goal is to get the artistic community to help exert international pressure to free filmmakers who risk rotting in jail cells and having their careers ended for merely speaking their minds. Fremaux’s petition can be linked through http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/solidarite-jafar-panahi/, but you can read it here:

We have just learnt, with great anger and concern, about the judgement of the Court of the Islamic Republic in Teheran, heavily condemning Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi.

The sentence: six years of imprisonment without remission, accompanied by a ban of twenty years on writing and making films, giving interviews to the press, leaving the territory, or communicating with foreign cultural organisations.

Another filmmaker, Mohammad Rassoulov, has been likewise sentenced to six years in prison. Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rassoulov are going to join the many prisoners now rotting in jail in Iran in a state of total distress. Some are on hunger strikes, while others are gravely ill.

What does the Iranian government reproach Jafar Panahi with? Having conspired against his country and carried out a campaign hostile to the Iranian regime.

The truth is that Jafar Panahi is innocent and his only crime is wishing to continue to freely exercise his profession as a filmmaker in Iran. Over the last few months the Iranian government has put into place against him nothing short of a machine of war in order to destroy him, while locking him up to silence him.

Jafar Panahi is a renowned filmmaker and his films have been shown all over the world. Invited by the greatest film festivals in the world (Cannes, Venice, Berlin), he is today prevented from pursuing his work as a filmmaker. The heavy sentence inflicted upon Jafar deprives him of his freedom, while preventing him both physically and morally from carrying out his work as a filmmaker. Henceforth, he must remain silent, refrain from any and all contact with his fellow filmmakers both in Iran and anywhere else in the world.

Through this sentence inflicted upon Jafar Panahi, it is manifestly all of Iranian cinema which is targeted.

This sentence both revolts and scandalises us. So, let us call upon all filmmakers, actors and actresses, screenwriters and producers, all motion-picture professionals as well as every man and woman who loves freedom and for whom human rights are fundamental, to join us in demanding the lifting of this sentence.

Join the call alongside of le Festival de Cannes, la SACD, la Cinémathèque française, l’ARP, la Cinémathèque suisse, le Festival international du film de Locarno, le Forum des images, Positif, la SRF, les Cahiers du cinéma, Citéphilo (Lille), France culture, la Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematogafica di Venezia, Culturesfrance, la Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, Sarajevo Film Festival, Cinéma Gindou, Centre Audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir, Centre Culturel Pouya.