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Iranian director Jafar Panahi grateful for Academy invite

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Jul 05, 2013 | 2:34pm EDT

Revered director Jafar Panahi has graciously accepted an invitation to join Hollywood's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after he was hit with a 20-year moviemaking ban in his native Iran. The outspoken star, a critic of the nation's strict Islamic laws, was convicted in 2010 of making a film without permission and inciting protests by supporters of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi following Iran's controversial 2009 presidential election. He was sentenced to six years in custody and the film was banned. However, Panahi, who is serving his time under house arrest, was given something to celebrate late last month (Jun13), when he was included among the 276 new members invited to join the Academy - and he is delighted to be able to stay in touch with his peers in the film industry via the membership, which grants him the privilege to vote for the winners of the 2014 Oscars and beyond. A statement posted on his pal Michael Moore's website reads: "It's an honor for me to join such a prestigious organization, and I am proud to accept the invitation on behalf of the large family of the Iranian filmmakers, who have steadfastly represented the best of Iranian arts and culture despite all the limitations they have been subjected to. "I understand this membership affords me the chance to see some of the best films every year and vote on their merits. For someone in my situation who has been banned from making films, viewing the works of international colleagues is an opportunity that I would deeply cherish. If I am forbidden from making films for twenty years, I can at least share the joys of filmmaking in a vicarious manner."

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