The Iranian government, as most people know, is repressive, fundamentalist and it seems, unconcerned even when the international film community is horrified by its attempts to silence its own film makers.
Iranian cinema has had to operate under a strict Islamic code and all films have to be approved by the ministry of culture before they can be made. This has meant that filmmakers have adopted unusual approaches to narrative cinema, giving a specific feel that may be unique to Iranian films.
There are many within the Iranian film community who have had to leave the country, others are currently imprisoned, many are simply not given permission to make any films and some have draconian lengthy bans enforced upon them.
The best known of these is Jafar Panahi, he is currently banned from film making, screenplay writing, meeting with foreign journalists or even leaving the country for 20 years and is waiting to see if the appeal court uphold his 6 year prison sentence.
His most recent film “This is not a film” was smuggled out of Iran in a cake and attempts to follow the letter of the law of his many bans whilst creating something true and real.
His films are extra-ordinary, often using real people to re-enact events from their lives.
Jafar Panahi (Persian: جعفر پناهی ; born 11 July 1960) is an Iranian film director, screenwriter and film editor most commonly associated with the Iranian New Wave film movement. After several years of making short films and working as an assistant director for fellow Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, Panahi first achieved international recognition with his feature film debut The White Balloon in 1995. The film won the Caméra d’Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, which was the first major award won by an Iranian film at Cannes. Panahi was quickly recognized as one of the most influential filmmakers in Iran. Although his films were often banned in his own country, he continued to receive international acclaim from film theorists and critics and has won numerous awards, including the Golden Leopard at the 1997 Locarno International Film Festival for The Mirror, the Golden Lion at the 2000 Venice Film Festival for The Circle and the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival for Offside. His films are known for their humanistic perspective on life in Iran, often focusing on the hardships of children, the impoverished and women. Author Hamid Dabashi has said that “Panahi does not do as he is told — in fact he has made a successful career in not doing as he is told.”
After several years of conflict with the Iranian government over the content of his films (including several short-term arrests), Panahi was arrested in March 2010 along with his wife, daughter and 15 friends and was later charged with committing propaganda against the Iranian government. Despite support from filmmakers, film organizations and human rights organizations from around the world, in December 2010 Panahi was sentenced to a six-year jail sentence and a 20-year ban on directing any movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media and from leaving the country. This led to Panahi’s last film to date: This Is Not a Film, a documentary feature in the form of a video diary that was made despite of the legal ramifications of Panahi’s arrest. It was smuggled out of Iran in a Flash-Drive hidden inside a cake and was screened at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
He is currently one of Amnesty Internationals’ high profile prisoners of conscience
Filmmaker Sentenced to Six Years in Prison
Jafar Panahi is an internationally celebrated film director who won the coveted “Golden Lion” prize at the Venice Film Festival for his 2000 film Dayareh (“Circle”).
Panahi has been sentenced to six years in prison plus a twenty-year ban on all his artistic activities—including film making, writing scripts, traveling abroad and speaking with media.
Panahi was convicted of “propaganda against the state” for having exercised his right to peaceful freedom of expression through his film-making and political activism. He was specifically accused of making an anti-government film without permission and inciting opposition protests after the disputed 2009 presidential election. Panahi’s artistic collaborator, Mohammad Rasoulof, was also sentenced to six years in prison. Panahi is not currently in detention but could be forced to report to prison at any time.
Jafar Panahi was detained in Evin Prison in Tehran for nearly three months following his arrest at his home on March 1, 2010.
While in prison he carried out a hunger strike to protest his degrading treatment, including being forced to stand outside in the cold with no clothing. He was invited to be a judge at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2010 but was in detention during the entire festival. His absence was recognized by the presence of an empty chair meant for him in prominent view on the stage throughout the festival.
In the interests of freedom of expression and to try and convince you that this is an important and talented film maker, here are some clips and full length movies.
Jafar Panahi has just won the European Parliaments’ Sakharov Prize for human rights and freedom of thought.
If, like me, you oppose the Iranian governments’ stance on artistic freedoms, please get involved:
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Get involved in the Amnesty International campaign
Buy the mans’ films, most are available on Amazon
Contact him with messages of support, madly, he has a Facebook page.