Jafar Panahi, of “The White Balloon,” “Crimson Gold” and “Offside,” is one of major Iranian filmmakers — though his films are banned in Iran, and his support of the Iranian Green Movement has made him a persecuted figure in his own country. Last year he was arrested and temporarily jailed for his participation in a post-election rally in Tehran, his passport revoked. He was imprisoned again in March and not released on bail until late May, his chair on the Cannes jury left empty for him in his absence.
Today he was “convicted of gathering, colluding and propaganda against the regime,” according to the Guardian. His lawyer reports that he “is therefore sentenced to six years in prison and also he is banned for 20 years from making any films, writing any scripts, travelling abroad and also giving any interviews to the media including foreign and domestic news organisations.” It’s absolutely enraging — not only his imprisonment, but the attempt to entirely silence him as an artist, an activist and a man who’s earned immense respect and attention on the world stage. It is an unacceptable act of censorship.
When Panahi was last jailed, Coppola, the Coen brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, Spielberg, Scorsese and many other giants of the film community signed a petition calling for his release, and I expect major outrage to follow today’s announcement. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from Panahi’s last finished film, a short entitled “The Accordion,” which, like all of his work, weaves political themes and small scale observational dramas into a rich humanist tapestry.