Imprisoned Iranian Directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof Say ‘The Hope of Creating Again Is a Reason for Existence’

“No matter where, when, or under what circumstances, an independent filmmaker is either creating or thinking about creation,” the filmmakers said in a statement

Jafar Panahi
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Iranian directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, both of whom are currently imprisoned and being detained by the Iranian government, are urging attendees of the Venice Film Festival to continue to push back against censorship and support independent expression.

The directors in a joint statement distributed by the Venice Film Festival on Saturday to press said that “The hope of creating again is a reason for existence.”

“The history of Iranian cinema witnesses the constant and active presence of independent directors who have struggled to push back censorship and ensure this art’s survival,” Panahi and Rasoulof said jointly. “While on this path, some were banned from making films, and others were forced into exile or reduced to isolation. And yet, the hope of creating again is a reason for existence. No matter where, when, or under what circumstances, an independent filmmaker is either creating or thinking about creation. We are filmmakers, independent ones.”

Both Panahi and Rasoulof were detained by the Iranian government last month. Rasoulof, who is the director of the Berlin Golden Bear winner “There Is No Evil,” was arrested alongside fellow filmmaker Mostafa Aleahmad for posting on social media and participating in protests over a building that had collapsed in the city of Abadan in May. Panahi, the director of “Taxi” and “This Is Not a Film,” was arrested later that week after he visited the prosecutor’s office in Tehran to inquire about the status of Rasoulof.

Panahi and Rasoulof’s statement was shared at a panel discussion titled “Filmmakers Under Attack: Taking Stock, Taking Action,” which was put on in collaboration with an organization called the International Coalition of Filmmakers at Risk. The organization will also stage a flash mob on the red carpet on Friday, Sept. 9 in solidarity with filmmakers at risk.

“We are witnessing episodes of restriction of freedom of expression all over the world. The most striking example is that of the Iranian director Jafar Panahi but there are more insidious and subtle forms of censorship that are just as serious,” Venice festival director Alberto Barbera said on the panel Saturday.

Panahi’s latest film “No Bears” is premiering at the Venice Film Festival this week and will also play at the Toronto International Film Festival that kicks off next month.