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Iran: Director’s Passport Confiscated Despite Hints Of Tolerance In New Regime

What a difference a little bit of time and a new regime make… or do they? Earlier this year, Iran was mulling litigation over how it was portrayed in Ben Affleck’s Academy Award winner Argo, and it boycotted the 2012 Oscars in protest over the Innocence Of Muslims video that was made in the U.S. Now that a new government led by perceived political moderate Hassan Rouhani is in place, the Argo lawsuit has lost steam and Iran has entered Asghar Farhadi’s The Past as its Oscar candidate for 2013. Those and other recent moves had led some to wonder if a new era of tolerance for freedom of expression was afoot. But, in just the past day, it’s emerged that Manuscripts Don’t Burn director Mohammad Rasoulof had his passport confiscated on a recent return home to Iran, and is still blocked from leaving the country.

Does that mean that despite the possible thaw of relations between Iran and the rest of the free world, tolerance for freedom of expression at home hasn’t really budged? Folks I’ve spoken with agree that Iran’s reopening of the House of Cinema film guild in September, after a 20-month closure, gave rise to hope that banned filmmakers like Jafar Panahi might see their sentences eased. At the time, Deputy Culture Minister Hojatollah Ayoubi said, “When a cultural issue — like the one about the House of Cinema — becomes a political one, that is (because) the situation was not managed properly.” That makes this latest turn with Rasoulof even more “paradoxical” as one person put it to me today.

The submission of Farhadi’s The Past to the Oscar race even seemed to push against typical conservative mores. The choice wasn’t entirely unexpected — Farhadi’s A Separation won the Foreign Language prize in 2011 — but the movie was made in France with French coin and deals with moral issues and intimate relationships that might have once run afoul of state authorities. Instead, it reportedly rubbed some conservatives the wrong way, but only because they felt it wasn’t Iranian enough. Read More »

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Banned Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi Thanks Academy For Its Invitation To Join

Jafar Panahi was among the 276 people invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on June 28. The award-winning director of such films as The White Balloon, The Circle, This Is Not A Film and the recent Closed Curtain, faces a 20-year ban on making movies and leaving Iran for “acting against national security and propaganda against the regime.” And yet, his films continue to sneak into international festivals: This Is Not A Film was smuggled into Cannes on a flash drive hidden inside a cake and Closed Curtain was in Berlin this year. He appeared via Skype at the recent Karlovy Vary Film Festival and Michael Moore this week posted Panahi’s statement on his invitation to the Academy:

“I would like to sincerely thank the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for inviting me to join their organization. I am especially grateful to Michael Moore and the documentary branch for nominating me.

“It’s an honor for me to join such a prestigious organization, and I am proud to accept the invitation on behalf of the large family of the Iranian filmmakers, who have steadfastly represented the best of Iranian arts and culture despite all the limitations they have been subjected to.

“I understand this membership affords me the chance to see some of the best films every year and vote on

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Jafar Pahani’s ‘Closed Curtain’ Collaborators Blocked In Iran, But Film Will Travel

By | Wednesday February 27, 2013 @ 1:50pm PST

Kambozia Partovi, the co-director and co-star of banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi‘s Closed Curtain was in Berlin earlier this month to accept a Best Script Silver Bear on Panahi’s behalf. That will be his last international appearance with the film, for now. I’ve confirmed that Partovi and Closed Curtain actress Maryam Moghadam have both had their passports confiscated by the Iranian authorities, meaning they will be unable to travel with the movie as it makes the festival rounds. It is scheduled for closing night duties at the Hong Kong Film Festival on April 2 and has been invited elsewhere. I understand that it will continue to travel, even if those involved in making it can’t be present in support, and that the film has sold in a number of territories. Panahi is under a 20-year filmmmaking ban for “propaganda against the state.” He continues to make movies, however, including 2011′s This Is Not A Film and this year’s Closed Curtain. Read More »

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Iran Protests Berlin Win For Jafar Panahi’s ‘Closed Curtain’; Festival Says It Would “Regret Any Legal Consequences”

Banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi won the Best Script Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival on Saturday for his competition entry Closed Curtain. Since then, Iran has complained to fest organizers over the award, Iran’s Student News Agency reported, according to Reuters. The head of the country’s national cinema body, Javad Shamaqdari, said Berlin officials “should amend their behavior” and noted, “Everyone knows that a license is needed to make films in our country and send them abroad, but there are a small number who make films and send them out without a license. This is an offense… but so far the Islamic Republic has been patient with such behavior.” In a statement to Deadline, the festival said: “We would very much regret if the the screening of Pardé (Closed Curtain) would have any legal consequences for the filmmakers.”

Related: Jafar Panahi Faces Six-Year Stretch After Sentence Upheld Read More »

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Berlin Festival Adds Jafar Panahi’s ‘Closed Curtain’, Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Side Effects’

A year into a 20-year filmmaking ban in his native Iran, Jafar Panahi still managed to direct the 2011 documentary This Is Not A Film (which was smuggled to the Cannes Film Festival on a flash drive). The director, who is under house arrest in Iran, has evidently been behind the camera again as his Closed Curtain has just been added to the lineup for the 63rd Berlin Film Festival. Berlin provided few details about the film other than it’s co-directed by Border Café helmer Kambozia Partovi – who co-wrote Panahi’s 2000 Venice winner The Circle – and that both directors play roles in the movie, along with other castmembers. Joining that world premiere in competition will be the next film from No Man’s Land director Danis Tanovic along with Steven Soderbergh‘s Side Effects with Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum and Fredrik Bond’s feature debut The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman starring Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schweiger and Rupert Grint. Berlin runs from February 7-17 this year. Click over for the full list of new additions: Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: Berlusconi, Doha Tribeca, Jafar Panahi, New Revolver Boss

By | Saturday October 27, 2012 @ 5:05pm PDT

Angry Berlusconi says “There Will Be Consequences”
A day after receiving a jail sentence for tax fraud, Italian media mogul and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he feels “obliged” to stay in politics to “reform the justice system so that what happened to me doesn’t happen to other citizens”. He’s expected to appeal his conviction and four-year prison sentence for inflating the price of distribution rights bought by his Mediaset group to avoid paying taxes. He’s also barred from holding office for five years. He says his court ordeal was “intolerable judicial harassment” by left-leaning judges in Milan. “There will be consequences,” he said in an interview today on TG5, one of the TV channels owned by his conglomerate Mediaset.
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Iran To Boycott Venice Film Festival?

By | Tuesday July 31, 2012 @ 3:56am PDT

Iran may pull an entry from the Venice Film Festival over oil sanctions imposed by the European Union, a government official said over the weekend. “We naturally are thinking over a plan to boycott the festival this year,” the Culture Ministry’s Supervision and Evaluation Office Director Alireza Sajjadpur said. The fest, which tells me it has not received any word from Tehran, includes just one film from the country: Kianoosh Ayari’s The Paternal House in the Horizons sidebar. It includes depictions of difficulties faced by Iranian women living in a patriarchal family, and Sajjadpur’s office had previously demanded that Ayari make cuts in order to obtain a screening visa. But The Tehran Times reports those cuts have not been made. That begs the question of whether the film could screen in Venice regardless since the government decides what can and cannot travel. Still, in 2011, Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not A Film made it to Cannes by being smuggled on a flash drive hidden inside a cake, while the director was under house arrest. The Venice Film Festival runs August 29-September 8.

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Hot Trailer: ‘This Is Not A Film’

By | Saturday February 4, 2012 @ 5:40pm PST

Shot partially on an iPhone and with a digital camera and smuggled into France in a cake for last-minute submission to Cannes last year, this documentary observes the daily existence of Iranian director Jafar Panahi — under house arrest in Tehran while he appealed a six-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban from filmmaking. His crime? Supporting the opposition in Iran’s 2009 elections. Directed by Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. The Palisades/Tartan release opens February 29th in New York and March 2 in Los Angeles.

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Iranian Actress Released From Prison

Hollywood Rallies Against Iran’s Draconian Verdicts Against Filmmakers And Stars

Marzieh Vafamehr, the Iranian actress who was sentenced to a year in prison and 90 lashes for appearing in the government-banned film My Tehran For Sale, has been released from prison, according to Amnesty International. According to the human rights organization, her sentence was reduced to three months and her lashing sentence was overturned; she was released Monday. The movie, an Australian production that wasn’t supposed to be seen in Iran but hit the black market, stars Vafamehr as an actress who is banned from working onstage by Iranian authorities. It shows Vafamehr without a headscarf, and other Iranian young people going to underground raves, smoking hashish and having sex before marriage. Read More »

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Hollywood Rallies Against Iran’s Draconian Verdicts Against Filmmakers And Stars

Mike Fleming

Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi Faces Six-Year Stretch
Iranian Actress Faces Flogging Over Film

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

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Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi Faces Six-Year Stretch After Sentence Upheld

By | Monday October 17, 2011 @ 10:34am PDT
Mike Fleming

Somehow this slipped past us this weekend, but Iran has taken another step toward silencing one of the country’s most important filmmakers after an appeals court upheld a six-year jail sentence on Jafar Panahi, according to various reports that included the government-run newspaper Iran. According to that newspaper: “The charges he was sentenced for are acting against national security and propaganda against the regime.” His colleague Mohammad Rasoulof also faced a six-year sentence, and that was knocked down to one year. Panahi’s sentence includes a 20-year ban on making films, and traveling abroad. The convictions against Panahi and Rasoulof prompted an outcry among filmmakers, Amnesty International and international film festivals this year. Panahi’s lawyers reportedly will appeal again, but things are looking dire for an award-winning filmmaker who publicly mourned the deaths of protesters in the presidential elections, and reports say he and Rasoulof reportedly made a film about the aftermath. This is the same government that barbarically sentenced actress Marzieh Vafamehr to 90 lashes and a year in prison for appearing in My Tehran For Sale, and which called out the Cannes Film Festival for “fascist behavior” when it banned director Lars von Trier for his dopey comments about Nazis made at a press conference for Melancholia. Panahi won the Camera d’Or at Cannes for the 1995 film The White Balloon, and the festival pointedly added films by Panahi and Rasoulof to its program in May.

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Toronto: Festival Expresses Grave Concern Over Jailing Of Six Iranian Filmmakers

Mike Fleming

The hard-line Iranian government continues to be the bane of filmmakers there, and the Toronto Film Festival is speaking out. Deadline has told you how the repressive legal system gave six-year prison sentences to directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof for a murky charge of “propaganda against the state,” for publicly mourning the deaths of protesters killed following the presidential elections. Now, six filmmakers have been arrested and charged with espionage for working with the BBC. One of the directors, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, co-directed with Panahi This Is Not a Film, a documentary about Panahi’s plight that was shown during the recent festival. Here is the festival’s protest release: Read More »

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Toronto: Palisades Tartan Acquires Docu About Jailed Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi; Co-Director Stopped From Attending Fest

By | Wednesday September 14, 2011 @ 11:42am PDT

Palisades Tartan Films has acquired U.S. and UK rights to This Is Not A Film, whose subject is Iranian director Jafar Panahi, under house arrest in his native country after being jailed and banned from filmmaking for 20 years for supporting the opposition party in Iran’s 2009 elections. Essentially, he was vilified for publicly mourning protesters killed following the presidential elections. The deal comes as the film’s co-director with Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, was detained at the Tehran airport on his way to Toronto to attend its screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. “This film is of undeniable importance today, especially amid the current Middle Eastern unrest, and we look forward to sharing this powerful and significant film,” said Soumya Sriraman, Palisades Tartan president and CEO Soumya Sriraman said in announcing the rights deal. The 75-minute documentary was shot in secret on an iPhone by Mirtahmasb and was smuggled into France as a last-minute submission to May’s Cannes Film Festival, where it had its world premiere. It chronicles the day-to-day life of Panahi, who also is banned from conducting interviews with foreign press, and shows him talking with Mirtahmasb about his case and opining on the art of filmmaking.

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In Odd Twist, Iran Slams Cannes Over Von Trier Ban

Mike Fleming

In another Twilight Zone-like twist to Lars von Trier’s bizarre Cannes experience, the Iranian Vice Minister of Culture Javad Shamaqdari sent a letter slamming the festival for “fascist behavior” in declaring the Danish Melancholia director persona non grata after his attempts to be funny in declaring himself a Nazi and saying that he sympathized with Hitler. Von Trier hasn’t had many come to his defense since issuing those dopey comments, but it is odd to get a statement of support from the same government that gave harsh prison sentences and banishment from filmmaking to two of its most important directors, Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. Both had new films added to Cannes as a show of solidarity. Of course, von Trier issued another statement, which doesn’t really clear up anything: Read More »

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CANNES: Fest Awaits Persecuted Iranian Filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof

By | Wednesday May 18, 2011 @ 5:26am PDT

Cannes Festival Adds Films By Persecuted Iranian Filmmakers

The French news agency AFP is reporting that convicted Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof may make an appearance at the Cannes Film Festival. “We are happy, if confirmed, that Rasoulof can come and then we will re-show his film, but we will only be really happy when his appeal and that of Jafar Panahi have been completed,” said Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux. A court in December sentenced Rasoulof, along with fellow prominent director Panahi, to six years in jail and barred him from making films for 20 years. The two were released on bail pending an appeal but banned from travel abroad.

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Cannes Festival Adds Pics By Persecuted Iranian Filmmakers Jafar Panahi And Mohammad Rasoulof

Mike Fleming

In a important show of solidarity, the 2011 Cannes Film Festival has added to its program films directed by Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, the Iranian filmmakers who each drew six-year prison sentences (with a 20-year filmmaking banishment for Panahi) by a strict Tehran regime that charged them with “propaganda against the state.” Essentially, the men were vilified for publicly mourning protesters killed following the presidential election. Panahi, who won Camera d’Or honors at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival for his first film, The White Balloon, and the Golden Lion in 2000 for The Circle, was arrested again in February 2010, and sent to prison in Tehran on the dubious charge of collusion and propaganda. Filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Coppola, Paul Haggis and Sean Penn, and numerous festivals and humanitarian organizations like Amnesty International, have decried the harsh sentences that have cast a chill on all Iranian filmmakers.

For its part, festival organizers reveal they just got the films that were made in “semi-clandestine” conditions. Read More »

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Roadside Attractions Lands Sundance Pic ‘Circumstance’

Mike Fleming

Participant Media has set the 2011 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner Circumstance to be distributed domestically by Roadside Attractions. Participant acquired the Maryam Keshavarz-directed drama during the festival, and now the film is on track to be distributed theatrically during the summer. The film is set in contemporary Iran, where a wealthy family struggles to contain a teen’s growing sexual rebellion and relationship with another girl, while her brother grows into a dangerous militant. Keshavarz, who has been outspoken on the 6-year prison sentence given Jafar Panahi and Muhamad Rasoulof, shot the film in Lebanon because she feared its controversial subject matter might endanger her crew.

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Sundance: Participant Media Acquires ‘Circumstance’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: In its second Sundance deal today, Participant Media has acquired North American rights to Circumstance, a tale of forbidden love in Iran, written and directed by Maryam Keshavarz. Deal is worth mid to high six figures. The picture, which premiered Saturday, is Farsi language with English subtitles.

Participant Media president Ricky Strauss sealed the deal and is now in talks with several distributors on a film that was produced by Keshavarz, Karin Chien and Melissa M. Lee, with Christina Won exec producing. A wealthy Iranian family struggles to contain a teen’s growing sexual rebellion and her brother’s dangerous obsession. Deadline readers might recall Keshavarz was one of the first filmmakers to speak out against the imprisonment of Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Muhammad Rasoulof when they were issued draconian 6-year prison sentences and banned from making films for two decades by the oppressive regime there. Keshavarz told me at the time that she had to shoot in Lebanon, because she feared her film’s provocative subject matter would put its crew in danger.

“This remarkable debut from an exciting new film making talent, Maryam Keshavarz, gives us the perfect vehicle to begin expanding our international outreach with foreign language storytelling,” Participant’s Strauss said in a statement.

Participant Media teamed with Magnolia Pictures earlier today to acquire Page One, the documentary about The New York Times. Strauss, Jeff Ivers and Jonathan King … Read More »

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UPDATE: Martin Scorsese Lends Name To Amnesty International Protest Of Prison Sentences For Iranian Filmmakers

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Martin Scorsese, who spoke out in support of Jafar Panahi both when he was first arrested and right after he was convicted, has added his support to the petition being circulated by Amnesty International. His participation is reflected in the amended release below.

EARLIER: Amnesty International has gotten involved in protesting the 6-year prison sentence given to Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. As Deadline revealed last week, the human rights advocate has enlisted Paul Haggis, Sean Penn and Harvey Weinstein to spearhead the petition effort meant to create international pressure as the filmmakers prepare their appeal. Here’s the formal announcement:

(New York) — Academy Award winners Paul Haggis, Martin Scorsese and Sean Penn, along with film producer and movie studio chairman Harvey Weinstein, have joined forces with British-Iranian actress and Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) spokesperson Nazanin Boniadi to condemn the harsh sentence imposed on distinguished Iranian film director Jafar Panahi.

Both Panahi and his artistic collaborator, Mohammad Rasoulof, have been given six-year prison sentences after being convicted of “propaganda against the state.” Panahi was also sentenced with a twenty-year total ban on artistic activities. The Hollywood greats have signed a petition, which Boniadi initiated with AIUSA, to urge Iranian authorities to overturn Panahi’s sentence –and encouraged others to go to to do the same.

“As someone who has often gotten in trouble for opening his mouth, it is hard to fathom the idea of being

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