In September 2011, the Iranian government arrested six independent filmmakers for allegedly working with the BBC, on charges including espionage and treason. Along with the ongoing house arrest of director Jafar Panahi and the prior arrest of actress Marzieh Vafamehr, who was later sentenced to one year in prison and 90 lashes, the arrests sparked outrage from filmmaking communities within Iran and around the world. Prior to the release of two of the filmmakers, all six were denied access to their lawyers and families, who were forced to remain silent.
The following entertainment industry organizations stand united in their support for the rights of these artists and call for their immediate release.
Statement from the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
As an international organization representing over 6000 artists in 35 countries, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is deeply concerned whenever and wherever the rights of filmmakers are threatened. The recent arrest of six Iranian filmmakers, the sentence of “one year in jail and 90 lashes” to an actress just for playing a role in an acclaimed film, and the continued house arrest of Jafar Panahi, among others, is a situation that demands our serious attention. These filmmakers – and others – are artists, not political combatants. We join our colleagues around the world in calling unequivocally for these filmmakers’ safety, release, and return to filmmaking. They deserve the same, full freedom of expression that the overwhelming majority of our members enjoy every day, no matter where they are from, no matter where they work, no matter what their beliefs.
The American Cinema Editors is an organization of more than 500 professional film editors in the United States and around the globe. We join with the other members of the filmmaking community in expressing our deep concern whenever and wherever the basic human rights of free expression are threatened.
As storytellers, we feel that the arrest of fellow artists for expressing their beliefs, revealing truths and pursuing creative freedom, no matter how controversial, is a story that should no longer have to be told in the 21st century.
Statement from the Board of Governors of the American Society of Cinematographers
The American Society of Cinematographers is an organization of more than 300 professional directors of photography in the United States and throughout the world. We foster the collaboration of cinematographers and the creative exchange of ideas and issues of mutual concern to our members and to the global filmmaking community. We are deeply concerned whenever and wherever the rights of filmmakers are threatened. We share these concerns with our fellow guilds and film organizations: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), The Directors Guild of America (DGA), The Producers Guild of America (PGA), The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), The Writers Guilds of America East and West (WGA), the American Cinema Editors (ACE) and the International Documentary Association (IDA). We are deeply concerned regarding the recent arrest of six Iranian filmmakers. The sentence of “one year in jail and 90 lashes” to an actress just for playing a role in an acclaimed film, and the continued house arrest of Jafar Panahi, among others, is a situation that demands our serious attention. These filmmakers – and others – are artists, not political combatants. We join our colleagues and cinematographers around the world in calling unequivocally for these Iranian filmmakers’ safety, release, and return to filmmaking. They deserve the same, full freedom of expression that the overwhelming majority of our members enjoy every day, no matter where they are from, no matter where they work, no matter what their beliefs.
Statement from the Directors Guild of America
The Directors Guild of America joins our colleagues and fellow artists around the world in condemning the baseless and cruel imprisonment or detainment of filmmakers by the Iranian government.
We first raised this issue last year immediately after the sentencing of prominent Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi. We are extremely concerned that not only does Panahi remain under arrest, but the Iranian government continues to detain filmmakers and other artists without cause.
As an organization representing 14,500 directors and members of the directorial team who live and work all over the world, it is our belief that for a society to flourish, artists must have the freedom to live and work without fear of imprisonment, retribution or censorship. Creative freedom is an essential building block of liberty, culture, civil and human rights, and we join the world community in opposing any attempt to suppress the rights of artists to engage in creative expression. We hope the Iranian government will release these filmmakers and recognize that their creative works can only strengthen and enrich Iranian society.
Statement from the International Documentary Association
The International Documentary Association believes that the power and artistry of film is vital to cultures and societies globally, and we fiercely defend the rights of filmmakers and artists everywhere to practice their art and to seek and reveal truth in their work, however provocative that truth may be. We strenuously uphold the principles of free speech and freedom from censorship. The expression of truth should never be silenced by the exercise of power by a State or system of authority that may feel threatened by the content of the artistic or journalistic work–both essential elements of democracy. Together with our entire international community of documentary filmmakers, The International Documentary Association calls for the release and fair treatment of Iranian filmmakers, artists, and actors. These artists, and other filmmakers, actors and journalists like them, must be immediately released and allowed to continue their artistic and journalistic work without restriction or penalty. We stand united with them, as do artists across the globe. And we will continue to fight for their fundamental human right of self-expression.
Statement from the Producers Guild of America
As supporters of creative freedom, the Producers Guild of America, on behalf of its more than 4,800 members, wishes to express its profound dismay over the treatment of producer Katayoun Shahabi, directors Jafar Panahi, Naser Saffarian, Hadi Afarideh, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Shahnam Bazdar, and journalist and documentarian Mohsen Shahrnazdar at the hands of their Iranian government. The silencing of these voices and others via arrest, coercion and political pressure is unacceptable, and we stand steadfast with our colleagues within the industry and around the world in calling for their release. We look forward to the day when these storytellers are permitted to resume their callings, and hope that even in their captivity, these artists know that they have the sympathy, respect and support of our creative community.
Statement from Screen Actors Guild
Iran has a strong tradition of artistic expression reaching back thousands of years. That tradition is under attack in a contemporary Iran that has seemingly turned against its own artists. Screen Actors Guild deeply deplores the persecution of actor Marzieh Vafamehr and the filmmakers and other entertainment and media industry representatives now under attack in Iran. We add our voices to the thousands of artists worldwide calling on the Iranian government to immediately free Marzieh and the other artists and filmmakers imprisoned because of their artistic and cultural endeavors. We urge Iran to refrain from stifling the artistic expression of its citizens and to let their unique and valuable voices be heard once again.
Statement from the Writers Guilds of America, West and East
The Writers Guilds of America West and East add their voices to the calls for the release of writer/director Jafar Panahi, now under house arrest, and all other members of Iran’s creative community unjustly imprisoned or detained.
The art of Iran is one of the great treasures of humankind. Its cinema has a long and vibrant history–and in recent years, the Iranian cinema has been one of the very brightest lights illuminating the art form for the rest of the world. Its filmmakers represent the richness of Iranian culture and the extraordinary imagination of the Iranian people. All of us are poorer when their voices are stilled.
We urge the government of Iran to remember that these are artists, not political enemies, that they have, as all free people do, the right to hold and express opinions. And we urge the government of Iran to remember that their work is the most powerful ambassador of understanding between the people of Iran and the people of the world.
Nothing is more dangerous to a society than the silencing of art. Therefore, we ask the government of Iran to release its filmmakers and to allow them to live and to work freely, as they have previously done in their country and as most of their fellow artists do in the rest of the world.