Figureheads from the European film industry have gathered to protest the imminent incarceration of Iranian film director Mohammad Rasoulof, whose film “There Is No Evil” won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale, which he was unable to attend because of a government ban on travel.
The European Film Academy, Cannes Film Festival, the Deutsche Filmakademie, the Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, the Filmfest Hamburg, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), the Netherlands Film Fund, and the Accademia del Cinema Italiano are collectively protesting the prison summons just served to Rasoulof to serve one year in jail. These organizations join the Berlin International Film Festival in the protest.
On July 23 of last year, the Iranian Revolutionary Court had sentenced the director to one year in prison and a two-year prohibition against working as a director for alleged propaganda against the government, as his films cast a critical eye on the regime. These conditions were in addition to a two-year ban on leaving Iran, or getting involved in any political or social activity. (Read IndieWire’s recent interview with Rasoulof in Berlin here.)
“Summoning me to serve my prison sentence only reveals a small fraction of the intolerance and anger that is characteristic of the Iranian regime’s response to criticism,” Rasoulof said in a statement. “Many cultural activists are in prison for criticizing the government. The widespread and uncontrollable spread of the COVID-19 virus in Iranian prisons seriously endangers their lives. These conditions call for an immediate response from the international community.”
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“We strongly protest against the summons of Mohammad Rasoulof and urgently call on the Iranian authorities to ensure his safety and health,” the European protest reads. “We also ask for the charges against Mohammad Rasoulof to be retracted and the travel ban against him to be lifted immediately and unconditionally and call on festivals around the world, cinemas and all artists to do the same.”
European Film Academy president and filmmaker Wim Wenders also said, “Our colleague Mohammad Rasoulof is an artist who keeps telling us about a reality we would otherwise know little about. His Golden Bear winning film ‘There Is No Evil’ is a deeply humane portrait of people in extreme situations, situations no human should be forced to experience. We need voices like that of Mohammad Rasoulof, voices defending human rights, freedom and dignity.”
Ulrich Matthes, president of the Deutsche Filmakademie, added, “Mohammad Rasoulof is an outstanding artist whose deeply humane films about freedom and oppression have reached so many people worldwide throughout his career. He is a representative master of Iranian cinema: a rich film culture that has provided us with some of the most compelling stories about the human condition. Mohammad Rasoulof’s films not only tell us about life in Iran but also speak to us in the universal language of cinema to promote empathy and peace. We need artists like Mohammad Rasoulof to be able to raise their voice without fear of reprisal.”