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 »
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 »
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.
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 »
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 »
In the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival that consisted of 21 films from 19 different countries, the top prize was shared by the Kim Ki-Duk-directed Arirang and the Andreas Dresen-directed Halt Auf Freier Strecke (Stopped On Track).
The Special Jury Prize went to the Andrew Zvyagintsev-directed Elena and the directing prize went to Mohammad Rasoulof for Be Omid E Didar (Au Revoir). Latter award is poignant considering Rasoulof and Jafar Panahi were hit with six-year jail sentences by the hard-line Iran government. The harsh sentences have resulted in an outcry among organizations including Amnesty International, filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and festivals that include Cannes, which made sure to include films by both directors in the lineups.
The Un Certain Regard jury was headed by Serbian director Emir Kusturica and was comprised of French actress Elodie Bouchez, UK critic Peter Bradshaw, Tribeca’s Geoffrey Gilmore, and Morelia Festival director Daniela Michel.
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.
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 »