One of the most depressing events in the film world in the last few years has been the imprisonment of Iranian director Jafar Panahi. The man behind acclaimed films such as “The Circle,” “Crimson Gold” and “Offside” among others, was arrested by the country’s regime two years ago for “assembly and colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” and sentenced to six years in prison, as well as being banned for making films, or leaving the country, for twenty years. Petitions and protests have been held all over the world, just as Panahi’s documentary “This Is Not A Film” was unveiled at festivals, but so far, to no avail. And it has emerged that, just as Panahi’s imprisonment took place, he was moving towards making his Hollywood debut with one of the biggest producers in town, and an Oscar-winning screenwriter.
Time Out London tweeted yesterday that during an interview with Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List,” “Moneyball,” “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo“) the writer revealed that he’s been penning an adaptation of “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” the second bestselling novel from Khaled Hosseini, author of “The Kite Runner,” with the intention that Panahi would direct the project. According to a second tweet that followed, Panahi “said that he wanted to do it.”
The book, published in 2007, tracks two women from their childhood in 1960s Afghanistan to the fall of the Taliban, and had been set up at Sony, with mega-producer Scott Rudin (“True Grit,” “The Social Network“) shepherding the project. Panahi would have been a bold choice to direct such a studio project, but also a totally inspired one, and certainly better than Marc Forster, who helmed the adaptation of Hosseini’s debut “The Kite Runner” around the same time.
For now, the film will have to be recategorised as one of those great lost projects, as we can only continue to hope for Panahi’s safe and swift release. If you haven’t already (and even if you have), you can send a message on the filmmaker’s behalf to the Iranian regime, via Amnesty International, right here.