Panahi’s latest film, “No Bears”, premiered at the Venice Film Festival and will also screen at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Iranian directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, both currently in Iranian government custody, sent a letter to the Venice International Film Festival, which was read by festival director Alberto Barbara at the start of a panel titled “Filmmakers under attack: Stock, take action.
Panahi and Rasoulof were arrested by the Iranian government last month. Rasoulof, who is the director of Berlin’s Golden Bear winner No harm done, was arrested alongside fellow filmmaker Mostafa Aleahmad for posting on social media and participating in protests against a building that collapsed in the city of Abadan in May. Panahi, the director of Taxi and this is not a moviewas arrested later in the week after going to the Tehran prosecutor’s office to inquire about Rasoulof’s status.
Panahi will serve a six-year prison sentence.
The directors said in a joint statement that “the hope of creating again is a reason to exist”.
They added: “We are filmmakers. We are part of Iranian independent cinema. For us, to live is to create. We create works that are not commissioned. Therefore, those in power view us as criminals. Independent cinema reflects its time. It is inspired by society. And cannot be indifferent to it.
“The history of Iranian cinema bears witness to the constant and active presence of independent directors who fought to push back against censorship and ensure the survival of this art. While on this path, some are banned from making films, others are forced into exile or reduced to isolation. And yet, the hope of recreating is a raison d’être. It doesn’t matter where, when and under what circumstances an independent filmmaker creates or thinks about creating. We are filmmakers, independents.
No harm done Producer Kaveh Farnam, speaking at the Venice panel, went over the details of the arrests, calling the government’s latest crackdown “a big attack on Iranian independent cinema, on filmmakers and everything that isn’t.” 100% in the same direction and the same ideology of the government.”
“Weeks before, they arrested documentary filmmakers,” Farnam said. “This time they broke the news on their own. It was pre-ready news. There was a message: “This is the beginning of direct physical harassment and attacks against Iranian independent cinema. These events of the last two months prove that it is not just the arrest of Mohammad Rasoulof. It was an attack on Iranian cinema.
He thanked the international community for “making noise” for Iranian filmmakers, but warned that the government crackdown “is not over yet”.
Besides the situation in Iran, the panel discussed the persecution of filmmakers in several countries, including Turkey, Egypt and Myanmar. Turkish producer Sinem Sakaoglu spoke about the case of producer and journalist Çiğdem Mater, sentenced to 18 years in prison, with six co-defendants. The main accusation leveled against her is that she was trying to raise funds for a documentary project on the Gezi Park movement which was never made.