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.
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
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.
An Iranian actress has been sentenced to 90 lashes and a year in prison for appearing in an Australian film showing her not wearing a headscarf. Marziah Vafamehr, star of 2009 film My Tehran For Sale, was imprisoned in July. Her sentence has been revealed by Iranian opposition website Kalameh.com. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the Australian government was “deeply concerned” about Vafamehr’s arrest. Cyan Films, the South Australia-based production company which made the award-winning film, said it was “deeply shocked and appalled” by her sentence. Ironically, My Tehran For Sale follows an actress who finds herself banned from working on stage by the Iranian authorities. The film shows Iranian young people going to underground raves, smoking hashish and having sex before marriage – behaving, in short, like most young people around the world do. The producers have said the film was never intended for distribution within Iran, and its dissemination on the black market in Tehran has been totally outside their control. “We continue to offer our support to Marzieh and her family by respecting their wishes to let the case and the appeal follow the proper legal channels,” producers Kate Croser and Julie Ryan said in a statement. There is confusion as to what Vafamehr has been arrested for: she appears to have been arrested on grounds that My Tehran For Sale was shot in the Iranian capital without proper shooting permits. Both Cyan Films and …