As the movie community puts together their best and worst lists, and gathers around to watch their new BluRays delivered by Santa, they are also taking a moment to think about jailed Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Muhammad Rasoulof and encourage their colleagues to join in the number of petitions calling for their release.
As a refresher, in July 2009, Panahi was arrested after joining a public mourning for protesters killed during demonstrations in the wake of the disputed election results in the country. He was released, but barred from leaving the country and was re-arrested earlier this year. He was sentenced recently for his alleged crimes and received a harsh verdict: six years in prison (which Rasoulof also received) and an additional 20-year ban from making any films, writing any scripts, traveling abroad and conducting interviews. Harsh, egregious and outrageous, it’s no wonder that the filmmaker’s colleagues around the world are beginning to mobilize to call for the sentence to be lifted.
Martin Scorsese recently issued a statement condemning the actions of the Iranian government and voicing his support for Panahi and Rasoulof. “I was shocked and disheartened by the news of Jafar Panahi and Mohammed Rasoulof’s conviction and sentencing,” Scorsese said. “It’s depressing to imagine a society with so little faith in its own citizens that it feels compelled to lock up anyone with a contrary opinion. As filmmakers, we all need to stand up for Panahi and Rasoulof. We should applaud their courage and campaign aggressively for their immediate release.”
Additionally, multiple petitions are now being put together. “Crash” director Paul Haggis is working with Amnesty International in a petition that will be unveiled after Christmas. Meanwhile, Thierry Fremaux, director of the Cannes film festival has already launched a petition of his own, in solidarity with numerous film associations around the world, calling for justice for Jafar Panahi and Muhammad Rasoulof.
We’re glad that these filmmakers are not being forgotten in the sweep of the holiday season and encourage you not only to sign any petitions to free Jafar Panahi and Muhammad Rasoulof, but to tell a friend and pass the word along.