Iranian Filmmaker Jailed for Five Years for 'Collaborating With the BBC, American Media'

Overlap Films
Mahnaz Mohammadi in "Wedding Ephemerals"

The Cannes Film Festival and other international industry bodies are calling for Iran to free prominent documentarian Mahnaz Mohammadi, who stands accused of colluding against the state.

Prominent Iranian documentary filmmaker and women's rights activist Mahnaz Mohammadi was taken to Tehran's infamous Evin prison earlier this month to begin serving a five-year jail term. She is charged with colluding against the state with the BBC and American news networks.

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Mohammadi is best known for her short documentary Woman Without Shadows (2003), which depicts the hardships of homeless women in a troubled state-run shelter, and Travelogue (2006), shot on a train between Iran and Turkey, where she asked passengers why they were fleeing their country. Since the release of Travelogue, Iranian authorities have denied Mohammadi permission to leave Iran. In 2010, she was invited to attend the Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of Reza Serkanian's Wedding Ephemerals, in which she starred. She was unable to attend.

Various international film organizations have called for her release, including the Cannes Film Festival. The French Film Directors’ Guild (La Societe des Realisateurs) has launched a global petition demanding her freedom (those who wish to sign must simply send an email with their full name to

Mohammadi was found guilty of assembly and collusion against national security, and propaganda against the state. She denies all charges.

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"I have never worked with the BBC, and none of my films have ever been broadcasted on this network," she told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) earlier in June. "I have also been charged with having relations with al-Jazeera English, German and American media, Radio France International, and Voice of America."

"My interrogator wanted me to confess to receiving money from BBC Persia in return for working against the Islamic Republic of Iran, but because I had never done this and had no ties to the BBC at all, I didn't confess. The gentlemen had prepared a scenario, which I had to act out," she told the ICHRI.

"My interrogator was unable to find any evidence against me. In the end, he referred to my documentary film, Travelogue, which had received an award from [the Iranian] Truth film festival in 2006, and used it against me as evidence," she said.

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"Judge Moghisseh [the judge overseeing her case] told me in court: 'You don't deserve to breathe the air of the Islamic Republic of Iran.' He told me to 'go to your hypocrite friends abroad.' Some lawyers told me this meant they wanted me to leave the country."

In an emotional interview given on the eve of her imprisonment, Mohammadi discussed her feelings and preparations for her five-year term. Watch it below.