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Panahi’s “Offside” Screens Today; Filmmaker Still in Prison

Panahi's "Offside" Screens Today; Filmmaker Still in Prison

One might expect the activist potential enabled by Internet grassroots organizing might translate to actual results. But my efforts to raise awareness for the continued imprisonment of award-winning filmmaker Jafar Panahi (“The White Balloon,” “Crimson Gold,” “The Circle”) have hit a wall. I sent calls out through Twitter and Facebook, send emails to prominent producers and industry insiders and received but a single high-profile signatory to a petition on behalf of Panahi’s release: writer-producer-studio exec James Schamus.

In an email exchange, Iranian film scholar and Panahi translator, Jamsheed Akrami, wrote to me, “I am hoping big names will generate some headlines for Jafar. I called his daughter in Tehran over the weekend and she thought keeping her father’s name in the news will be a big help.”

An online petition was posted to the web–which just hit 2000 names–but without high-profile names and a central figure to present it to the Iranian government or its embassies, the online list will mean little, and America’s film industry will have tacitly ignored the imprisonment of one of their fellow filmmakers abroad. Alas, this doesn’t say a lot for our political commitment these days.

Panahi’s most recent film “Offside,” a slyly subversive political comedy about young female soccer fans, screens today at Brooklyn’s BAM cinematheque, which should remind us of Panahi’s importance on the world cinema scene. In an interview with Panahi in the Los Angeles Times, I talked with Panahi about “Offside” and his commitment to making serious cinema. “I am a socially committed filmmaker, and I cannot be indifferent to what is happening around me,” he said.

As I said before in a recent post, I would hope America’s film community would be a little less apathetic.

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