Since moving back to Iran in 2017, Rasoulof has been banned from making films and travelling outside the country after being charged with “propaganda against the system” for his provocative films. He was also sentenced to a year in prison, a charge he was in the process of appealing before the arrest. The Associated Press reported Friday that the filmmakers were arrested for recent social media posts they made that were critical of the government
Kaveh Farnam and Farzad Pak, two of Rasoulof’s Iranian producers, released a statement via distributor Kino Lorber on Twitter, which condemned the arrest while revealing that the two filmmakers are currently being held in an unknown location.
“On Friday, July 8th, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad, respected and dedicated Iranian filmmakers, were arrested in their residences in a coordinated and brutal attack under false pretenses and transferred to an unknown location,” the statement reads. “As we continue to strongly condemn the authorities for their disregard for basic human rights and civil liberties and the persistent repression and pressure inflicted on committed and independent Iranian filmmakers, we demand the immediate and unconditional release of our colleagues. We ask for support from artists and cinematographers all over the world for the release of imprisoned artists.”
This is not Rasoulof’s first brush with the Iranian government. The filmmaker previously risked his safety by writing an open letter in May that accused the government of raiding the homes of filmmakers.
In a 2020 interview with IndieWire’s Eric Kohn, Rasoulof spoke about the Iranian government’s resistance to any films that challenge the status quo, despite its promotion of generic comedies and state-financed military propaganda films.
“There is so much money injected into this part of the industry that they don’t have any box office concerns because the government wants them to exist,” Rasoulof said. “There are totally financed by military and paramilitary services specifically aimed at building propaganda films.”
Still, despite opposition from the country’s authoritarian government, Rasoulof has continued to fight to make challenging art that told the truth about life in Iran.
“What I can observe from my own story,” he said, “is that the satisfaction that you receive once you resist oppression and despotism can be higher than the price you have to pay.”