Iran Throws Jafar Panahi in Jail — Will Spielberg, Scorsese Speak Again?

Filmmaker is sentenced to six years in jail by Islamic Republic and a 20-year ban on making films. Martin Scorsese

Once again, the Islamic Republic has dealt filmmaker Jafar Panahi a harsh blow.

The Camera d'Or award winner, who has attracted support from Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and others in his battles with the Iranian government, was convicted on Dec. 18 of colluding against the state in his native land.

“He is therefore sentenced to six years in prison,” his lawyer Farideh Gheyrat told the Iranian state news agency Monday, “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 organizations.”

Gheyrat said she would appeal the sentence which stems from a film Panahi was accused of making about the disputed 2009 presidential election and the crackdown that followed.

Attempts by TheWrap to reach the Iranian mission at the United Nations were not returned immediately.

This is not the first time the 50-year old director, who is best known for 1995’s “White Balloon,” 2000’s “The Circle” and 2006's “Offside,” has clashed with the Iranian regime and it is not the first time they have punished him this year.

 

Panahi was imprisoned in March for a film he was allegedly making about the highly questionable election the summer before. Protesting his treatment, the director, who denied he was making any such film, went on a hunger strike while at Tehran’s infamous Evin prison.

That arrest attracted wide support in Hollywood and elsewhere from Panahi’s peers.

Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, Francis Ford Coppola, Terrence Malick, Steven Soderbergh, the Coen brothers, Jim Jarmusch, Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, Ang Lee and Robert De Niro all signed a petition in late April urging the Iranian government to let Panahi go.

Panahi was released from jail on May 25 on $200,000 bail. The director was invited to appear at the Venice Film Festival this September but was unable to attend due to a government ban on his travel. Panahi did appear in court on Nov. 12 for a hearing in the case and stated he would not try to leave Iran.

Over a year beforehand, Panahi was arrested in July 2009 for his participation in a remembrance ceremony for the death of one of the protesters in Iran’s Green movement. Released not long afterwards, the director, who was an outspoken critic of the way the election was conducted and incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory, was banned from leaving Iran.

“When a film-maker does not make films it is as if he is jailed,” Panahi said, according to The Guardian in an interview in September. “Even when he is freed from the small jail, he finds himself wandering in a larger jail.”

Despite winning the Camera d'Or award in 1995 at Cannes for his debut feature, “The White Balloon,” the Golden Lion prize in 2000 at Venice for “The Circle,” and the Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear Award in 2006 for his female soccer saga “Offside” the films of Panahi are all banned in Iran.