Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi Sentenced To Six Years In Jail

Jafar PanahiJafar Panahi, the Iranian filmmaker who took home the Camera d’Or award at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival for his debut feature The White Balloon, was sentenced today to six years in prison today and banned from directing and producing films for the next 20 years, his lawyer said. The Guardian first reported this sad story that is currently taking the film community by storm.

An outspoken supporter of Iran’s opposition green movement, Panahi was convicted of gathering, colluding and propaganda against the regime, Farideh Gheyrat told the Iranian state news agency ISNA. He has long fought for change in his home country but has constantly been met with opposition from the government. Though his films are always banned at home they have had a great cultural impact around the world, garnering praise from the likes of Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola (all of whom have come to support him since his arrest).

Panahi was initially incarcerated in July 2009 after participating in a mourning ceremony for protesters killed in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election. He was denied permission to leave the country even after being released and then in February 2010 was arrested along with his family and colleagues and taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies at Columbia university, told the Guardian the sentence showed Iran’s leaders could not tolerate the arts. “This is a catastrophe for Iran’s cinema,” he said. “Panahi is now exactly in the most creative phase of his life and by silencing him at this sensitive time, they are killing his art and talent.

In an interview in September, Panahi said: “When a film-maker does not make films it is as if he is jailed. Even when he is freed from the small jail, he finds himself wandering in a larger jail.” In addition to The White Balloon, Panahi has made the critically acclaimed films The Mirror, Crimson Gold and The Circle, among others.

Source: The Guardian