European Filmmakers, Festivals, Rally to Support Jafar Panahi

Jafar Panahi - Iranian Film Director - 2010
Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Iranian authorities on Monday found Panahi guilty of colluding in the gathering and making of propaganda against the regime, sentencing him to six years in prison.


BERLIN -- Europe's premiere film festivals and the European film community have rallied behind Iranian director Jafar Panahi, calling on the regime in Tehran to reverse a sentence condemning him to six years in prison.

Iranian authorities on Monday found Panahi guilty of colluding in the gathering and making of propaganda against the regime. In addition to the prison term, he is banned for 20 years from making films, writing scripts, traveling outside the country or giving interviews to the media. His lawyer said she will appeal the conviction.

Europe's major film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Locarno, Rotterdam, Karlovy Vary and many others, condemned the sentence for Panahi and fellow Iranian filmmaker Mohammed Rassoulov, who also received a six-year prison term.

"The truth is that Jafar Panahi is innocent and his only crime is wishing to continue to freely exercise his profession as a filmmaker in Iran," read a joint statement from Cannes, Locarno and several French and Swiss film associations.

It continues that the regime in Tehran has put into place a "machine of war" against Panahi "in order to destroy him, while locking him up to silence him."

"It is shocking that a renowned director is punished so severely for his artistic work," added Berlin Film Festival director Dieter Kosslick.

Berlin earlier showed its support for Panahi by inviting him to join the jury of its 2011 edition.

As of Wednesday, some 5,500 people including directors Claire Denis, Semih Kaplanoglu, Andrea Arnold and fellow Iranians Marjane Satrapi and Rafi Pitts signed an online petition calling for Panahi's release. You can view the petition here.

Hollywood's film industry, including directors Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Redford and Martin Scorsese have also rallied to support Panahi and demand Tehran release him.

Panahi, director of award-winning features including Offside (2006), The Circle (2000) and The White Balloon (1995), drew the ire of Iranian authorities by backing an opposition candidate in last year's presidential elections. When hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a second term as president, millions took to the streets in massive protest marches, which were violently broken up by the police.