Wed, Dec 22, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Iran sentences acclaimed filmmaker Jafar Panahi to six years in prison

SILENCED:The court ruling bars Panahi from directing, writing scripts or traveling abroad for 20 years and bans him from talking to Iranian or foreign journalists

The Guardian, LONDON

Iranian film director Jafar Panahi poses in front of a picture of himself during an interview in Tehran on Aug. 30.

PHOTO: AFP

The acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was sentenced to six years in prison on Monday, and banned from directing and producing films for the next 20 years, his lawyer said.

Panahi, an outspoken supporter of Iran’s opposition green movement, was convicted of gathering, colluding and propaganda against the regime, Farideh Gheyrat told the Iranian state news agency ISNA.

“He is therefore sentenced to six years in prison and also he is banned for 20 years from making any films, writing any scripts, traveling abroad and also giving any interviews to the media including foreign and domestic news organizations,” she said.

Gheyrat said she would appeal against the conviction.

Panahi won the Camera d’Or award at the Cannes film festival in 1995 for his debut feature, The White Balloon, and took the Golden Lion prize at Venice for his 2000 drama, The Circle. His other films include Crimson Gold and Offside.

He is highly regarded around the world but his films are banned at home.

Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies at Columbia University, said 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.”

Panahi, 49, was initially arrested in July last year after participating in a mourning ceremony for the protesters killed in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election.

He was released shortly afterwards but was denied permission to leave the country.

In February, he was arrested along with his family and colleagues, and taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

Muhammad Rasoulof, one of the filmmakers who was arrested at the same time, was also sentenced to six years in jail on Monday.

In an interview in September, Panahi said: “When a filmmaker 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.”

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