Free Jafar Panahi

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05/03/2010 11:42 AM |

At last falls Montreal World Film Festival, Panahi (pictured) handed out green scarves to his fellow jury members.

  • At last fall’s Montreal World Film Festival, Panahi (pictured) handed out green scarves to his fellow jury members.

The Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, long a respected director of neorealist-influenced, politically frontal dramas of Iranian life, and since last summer especially a particularly outspoken critic of his nation’s illegitimate government, has been detained in an Iranian prison, and likely mistreated there, since early March, ostensibly for the crime of preparing an “anti-state” film.

One of many exemplars of Iran’s dual modern traditions of art cinema and artistic dissent, Panahi has gained not inconsiderable renown on the international festival circuit for films like Offside and The Circle, which deal in particular with the experience of women in a systemically repressive and sexist state; unlike many of his compatriots, he’s continued to work in his homeland despite the difficulty of doing so.

Late last week, a number of prominent American filmmakers publicly petitioned for his release. The full petition, and its signatories, are after the jump:

Jafar Panahi, the internationally acclaimed Iranian director of such award-winning films as The White Balloon, The Circle, Crimson Gold and Offside, was arrested at his home on March 1st in a raid by plain-clothed security forces. He has been held since then in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

A recent letter from Mr. Panahi’s wife expressed her deep concerns about her husband’s heart condition, and about his having been moved to a smaller cell. Mr. Panahi’s films have been banned from screening in Iran for the past ten years and he has effectively been kept from working for the past four years. Last October, his passport was confiscated and he was banned from leaving the country. Upon his arrest, Islamic Republic officials initially charged Mr. Panahi with “unspecified crimes.” They have since reversed themselves, and the charges are now specifically related to his work as a filmmaker.

We (the undersigned) stand in solidarity with a fellow filmmaker, condemn this detention, and strongly urge the Iranian government to release Mr. Panahi immediately.

Iran’s contributions to international cinema have been rightfully heralded, and encouraged those of us outside the country to respect and cherish its people and their stories. Like artists everywhere, Iran’s filmmakers should be celebrated, not censored, repressed, and imprisoned.


Paul Thomas Anderson
Joel & Ethan Coen
Francis Ford Coppola
Jonathan Demme
Robert De Niro
Curtis Hanson
Jim Jarmusch
Ang Lee
Richard Linklater
Terrence Malick
Michael Moore
Robert Redford
Martin Scorsese
James Schamus
Paul Schrader
Steven Soderbergh
Steven Spielberg
Oliver Stone
Frederick Wiseman

Petition Organizing Committee: Jamsheed Akrami, Godfrey Cheshire, Jem Cohen, Kent Jones, Anthony Kaufman

Will this do any good? Do these things ever do any good? Who knows. At the very least, it makes us pay more attention, which is not nothing. (Also, it takes this complaint out of circulation.)

One Comment

  • Panahi also edited “The White Meadows,” which just played at Tribeca, and the director of that movie was arrested at the same time as Panahi, although I heard he has since been released.