He raised his voice in Jafar Panahi’s defense before and now Martin Scorsese has spoken out again for the imprisoned Iranian director and fellow filmmaker Mohammed Rasoulof.
“I was shocked and disheartened by the news of Jafar Panahi and Mohammed Rasoulof's conviction and sentencing," said Scorsese in a statement Wednesday. "It's depressing to imagine a society with so little faith in its own citizens that it feels compelled to lock up anyone with a contrary opinion. As filmmakers, we all need to stand up for Panahi and Rasoulof. We should applaud their courage and campaign aggressively for their immediate release."
Panahi was convicted on Dec. 18 of colluding against the Islamic Republic and sentenced to 6 years in prison and a 20-year ban on filmmaking as well as travel from Iran.
Long a critic of the regime in his native land, the Camera d'Or award winner has attracted both the wrath of the Iranian government.
He also garnered the support of filmmakers around the world including Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Robert Redford, Francis Ford Coppola, Terrence Malick, Steven Soderbergh, the Coen brothers and others who signed a public petition in late April asking for Panahi to be released from a previous imprisonment.
“The White Balloon” and “Offside” director was released on May 25 on $200,000 bail but the Iranian government continued its efforts, resulting in the most recent sentence and conviction.
Director’s Guild President Taylor Hackford also issued a statement Wednesday condemning Panahi’s arrest and sentence.
“We are outraged by this attempt to lock away and silence Mr. Panahi, a world-renowned filmmaker, along with his fellow filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof who was similarly sentenced,” the DGA President said. “We understand full well how crucial creative freedom is to liberty, art, culture and human rights, and we oppose any attempt to suppress the rights of artists to engage in creative expression. We stand together with the world’s film community to protest this illegal action. We urge the Iranian government to rescind its misguided decision and free Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof.”