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Filmmaker Jafar Panahi Arrested as Conservative Iran Cracks Down on Dissidents

Panahi was reportedly arrested after protesting the detention of fellow Iranian filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad.

3 FACES, (aka THREE FACES, aka SE ROKH), Jafar Panahi, 2018. © Kino Lorber Films / courtesy Everett Collection

“3 Faces”

Kino International / Everett Collection

Update: The Cannes Film Festival, which awarded Jafar Panahi Best Screenplay in 2018 and invited him to the jury in 2010, has issued a statement calling for the immediate release of filmmakers Panahi, Mohammad Rasoulof, and Mostafa Al-Ahmad:

“The Festival de Cannes strongly condemns these arrests as well as the wave of repression obviously in progress in Iran against its artists. The Festival calls for the immediate release of Mohammad Rasoulof, Mostafa Aleahmad, and Jafar Panahi.

“The Festival de Cannes also wishes to reassert its support to all those who, throughout the world, are subjected to violence and repression. The Festival remains and will always remain a haven for artists from all over the world and it will relentlessly be at their service in order to convey their voices loud and clear, in the defense of freedom of creation and freedom of speech.”

Earlier: Dissident Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been taken into custody amid multiple recent arrests of activist artists and filmmakers in Iran, per the Mehr news agency (via AFP). Reports say that the Golden Bear-winning “Taxi” and “This Is Not a Film” filmmaker visited the Evin prison, which is located in the capital city of Tehran, on July 11. Panahi went to the prosecutor’s office to either protest or inquire about the July 8 arrests of fellow Iranian filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad. Afterward, Panahi was arrested.

“Jafar Panahi has been arrested today [Monday] when he went to the prosecutor’s office to follow up on the situation of another film-maker, Mohammad Rasoulof,” AFP said in a report.

This is the latest arrest following the detention late last week of “There Is No Evil” director Rasoulof and fellow filmmaker Mostafa Al-Ahmad. The detentions were in response to a social media statement shared by the directors opposing government corruption — and specifically Iran’s handling of the protest of a building collapse that killed 41 people in Abadan on May 23.

Panahi has faced repeated legal issues throughout his career and is currently banned from leaving or making films outside of Iran. Rasoulof also cannot make films outside of his home country. Panahi and Rasoulof were arrested together in 2011 for filming without a permit. They were given a six-year prison sentence, though Rasoulof’s was reduced and Panahi remains on house arrest. Panahi has had legal issues with his country dating back to 2001.

Still, Panahi does have a new feature in the works, titled “No Bears,” which is expected to premiere on the fall festival circuit. This will mark his first fiction feature since “3 Faces” won him the Best Screenplay prize in 2018 at Cannes, which he was not allowed to attend because of his travel ban. Mostly recently, Panahi contributed a short film to the COVID-19 omnibus project “The Year of the Everlasting Storm.”

Last week, Kaveh Farnam and Farzad Pak, two of Mohammad Rasoulof’s Iranian producers, released a statement via distributor Kino Lorber, condemning the July 8 arrests and revealing that Rasoulof and Al-Ahmad 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.”

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