Jafar Panahi Recalls Jail Time in Iran While Supporting Imprisoned Human Rights Activist — Exclusive

Jafar Panahi, the Iranian filmmaker behind 2015's "Taxi," recorded a message in support of imprisoned human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh.
Jafar Panahi
Jafar Panahi

Jafar Panahi, the outspoken Iranian filmmaker behind 2015’s acclaimed “Taxi,” has recorded an International Women’s Day message in support of imprisoned lawyer and human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. IndieWire is exclusively premiering Panahi’s message to Sotoudeh, which can be viewed below.

Panahi, who has been banned from filming and leaving Iran, secretly recorded the message in support of a conversation about Sotoudeh that will be co-hosted by Amnesty International USA, The Global Justice Center, and The Feminist Majority Foundation on Monday evening. The event coincides with Sotoudeh’s 100th day in prison and the international VOD release of Jeff Kaufman’s “Nasrin” documentary.

Panahi lauded Sotoudeh’s activism and outlook in his video message.

“I remember one day when Nasrin was in prison, I went to her house to visit her husband and children and in a way to comfort them,” Panahi said in the video message. “There among the group that had gathered, I was struck by a thought. Why were so many of the great world leaders who were visionaries and freethinkers at some point lawyers? People like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Nasrin too is a lawyer. Nasrin too is a freethinker. She doesn’t see the world as closed like our current leaders. Right there I made a suggestion. I said, ‘In my opinion, if we want to move beyond these times and view the world in an open way and teach our children that the world is not limited to what they are taught, we need a symbol. We need a role model to help us transition to a better place.’ And that can be Nasrin. Given her charisma and respect for the opinions of others, I think the best person we could choose to guide us through this time and reach the future is Nasrin.”

Sotoudeh, who was featured in Panahi’s “Taxi” film, was arrested by the Iranian government in 2018. Panahi has also been pressured by Iranian officials; he received a six-year prison sentence and 20-year ban on filmmaking in 2010 after being charged with propaganda against the regime. Panahi has continued working as a filmmaker since then and has covertly directed a handful of films, including “Taxi,” which won the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear in 2015.

As for the “Nasrin” documentary, which was also filmed in secret, the film is billed as an “immersive profile of one of the world’s most courageous human rights activists, and a leading figure in Iran’s remarkably resilient women’s rights movement.” Panahi appears in the documentary, which is produced by Marcia Ross and narrated by Olivia Colman.

Panahi’s full message to Nasrin can be viewed below:

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