Convicted Iranian filmmakers to feature at Cannes

Paris – Films by two convicted Iranian directors, Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, made in “semi-clandestine conditions”, will be shown at this month’s Cannes film festival, organisers said at the weekend.

Panahi’s In Film Nist (This is not a Film), will be included in the official selection and screened on May 20, a statement said. Rasoulof’s Be Omid e Didar (Goodbye) will be shown on May 14 in the parallel Un Certain Regard section of the festival.

The organisers said the two films had only reached the festival “in recent days.”

“Mohammad Rasoulof’s film and the conditions under which it was made, Jafar Panahi’s ‘diary’ of the days of his life as an artist not allowed to work, are by their very existence a resistance to the legal action which affects them,” said the statement. “That they send them to Cannes, at the same time, the same year, when they face the same fate, is an act of courage along with an incredible artistic message.”

The organisers quoted a letter from Panahi sent to the festival on May 5, which said: “The reality of being alive and the dream of keeping cinema alive motivated us to go through the existing limitations in Iranian cinema.”

“In Film Nist tells how, for months, Jafar Panahi waited for the verdict of his court appeal,” the statement said. “Through the depiction of a day in his life, Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb (a documentary filmmaker and former assistant director), we offer an overview of the current situation of Iranian cinema.”

Be Omid e Didar, a feature film with Leyla Zareh, Fereshteh Sadreorafai, Shahab Hoseini and Roya Teymorian, “is the story of a young lawyer in Tehran in search of a visa to leave the country, which is what Mohammad Rasoulof did during the winter of 2010/2011.”

Panahi (50) was convicted of “propaganda against the system” for making a film about unrest after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009. An Iranian court in December sentenced both directors to six years in prison and barred them from making films for 20 years. They are free on bail pending an appeal, but forbidden to travel abroad.

Panahi in particular has been feted in his absence at foreign film festivals. Berlin in February, Venice in September and Cannes a year ago all invited him to sit on their juries, leaving a symbolic empty chair for him when he was barred from leaving Iran.

Panahi is known for his gritty, socially critical movies such as The Circle, which bagged the 2000 Venice Golden Lion award, Crimson Gold, and Offside, winner of the 2006 Silver Bear at the Berlin film festival. Cannes had planned to show Offside this year, as well as hosting a forum on making films under a dictatorship.

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