Iranian director Jafar Panahi, whose imprisonment in Tehran prompted protests at last year's Cannes Film Festival, has been added to this year's Cannes lineup with "In Film Nist" ("This is not a Film"), a film diary shot on a day when he was waiting for his verdict.
Fellow Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, who like Panahi was stentenced to six years in prison and barred from making films for 20 years for speaking out against the regime, has also been added to the festival with "Bé Omid é Didar" ("Good Bye"), which deals with a young lawyer searching for a visa to leave Tehran.
A Cannes press release on Saturday says the two films were "made in semi-clandestine conditions and … reached the festival in recent days."
The films, said Cannes' Gilles Jacob and Thierry Fremaux, "are by their very existence a resistance to the legal action which affects them. That they send them to Cannes, at the same time, the same year, when they face the same fate, is an act of courage along with an incredible artistic message."
In a letter sent to the festival, Panahi (above) wrote, "The reality of being alive and the dream of keeping cinema alive motivated us to go through the existing limitations in Iranian cinema."
Panahi's film will show as a special screening in the Official Selection, and will screen on Friday, May 20. Rasoulof's will be part of the Un Certain Regard section and will screen on Friday, May 13.
Panahi's films include the Cannes Camera d'Or winner "White Balloon" and Un Certain Regard winner "Crimson Gold," as well as the Venice Film Festival winner "The Circle," which criticized the Irani regime's treatment of women.
He was named a member of the jury at last year's Cannes, but was imprisoned and could not attend. His chair was kept empty, and news surfaced during the festival that he had begun a hunger strike. When Juliette Binoche won the festival's Best Actress award for a film by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, she held up a sign bearing Panahi's name (right).
Panahi was released just after Cannes ended, but given a six-year sentence in December.
Rasoulof, whose films include "The Twlight" and "The White Meadows," was given the same sentence that day.
The 2011 Cannes Film Festival begins on May 11 and runs through May 22.