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Dissident Iranian Director Mohammad Rasoulof to Attend Cannes

Dissident Iranian Director Mohammad Rasoulof to Attend Cannes

Dissident Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, who fled Iran last week after being given an 8-year prison sentence, will be in Cannes for the world premiere of his new film, The Seed of the Sacred Fig.

Representatives of Rasoulof confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that Rasoulof will attend the premiere of The Seed of the Sacred Tree in Cannes on Friday, May 24, and will do press events and promotion for the movie.

The director escaped Iran by ditching all his trackable electronic devices and fleeing by foot over the mountains out of the country. He has found shelter in Germany. In an interview with The Guardian, Rasoulof said he expects he will soon return to his home country and sit out his prison sentence, but that he had “no choice” but to flee the country because he was determined to continue to make movies about his people and the real situation in Iran. He noted he was aware his decision to leave will likely earn him a new sentence.

The Seed of the Sacred Tree is the story of an investigating judge for Iran’s Revolutionary Court struggling with his conscience and rising paranoid as the Woman, Life, Freedom protests rock the country. The judge finds himself in conflict with his own family, his wife and two daughters, as the regime cracks down on protesters. It is screening in competition in Cannes.

Rasoulof is one of Iran’s leading living filmmakers and among the most prominent critics of the Tehran regime. In 2020 he received the Golden Bear, in absentia, at the Berlin film festival for his film There Is No Evil. The director has twice served time in Iranian jails for his films and activism.

Earlier this month, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Rasoulof to an 8-year prison sentence, as well as ordering a fine, the confiscation of his property and mandatory flogging in punishment for his public statements and his film work, which the court found were “examples of collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the country’s security.”

On Wednesday, a group of Berlin-based filmmakers: Tara Afsah, Raquel Dukpa, Paulina Lorenz, Jorgo Narjes, Faraz Shariat and Maryam Zaree, published an open letter in support of Rasoulof, which has already been signed by the likes of Sean Baker, Sandra Hüller, Laura Poitras, Tom Tykwer, Fatih Akin, Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Andrew Haigh, Ira Sachs, and others.

“Rasoulof‘s case is another example of the continuous systemic criminalization of artistic freedom” in Iran, the letter reads. “We condemn the inhumane treatment of Rasoulof, his colleagues and numerous other independent artists in Iran, who are being severely punished, criminalized and silenced for exercising their artistic freedom. It is the Iranian authorities who commit crimes when they try to silence critical voices and persecute violently any political dissent for the sake of their own retention of power. We all bear witness to their atrocities.”

The full text of the letter is below.

“We, an alliance of international filmmakers, call upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to release filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof from the brutal and unlawful persecution and sentence of imprisonment, confiscation of property, and flogging that forced him to flee the country.

We condemn the inhumane treatment of Rasoulof, his colleagues and numerous other independent artists in Iran, who are being severely punished, criminalized and silenced for exercising their artistic freedom. It is the Iranian authorities who commit crimes when they try to silence critical voices and persecute violently any political dissent for the sake of their own retention of power. We all bear witness to their atrocities.

We stand in full solidarity with Rasoulof’s demands and call upon the international film community to raise our voices against an Islamist dictatorship that systematically oppresses every aspect of their society’s lives. Rasoulof’s own words resonate deeply when he specifically considers his remaining colleagues:

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“The world’s cinema community must provide effective support for the creators of such films. Freedom of speech should be defended, loudly and clearly. Those who courageously and selflessly confront censorship instead of supporting it are reassured of the importance of their actions by the support of international film organizations.

As I know from personal experience, it can be an invaluable help for them to continue their vital work.”

Artistic freedom is a fundamental human right. As part of the world’s cinema community, we have to fight for every artist’s right of creative expression.

We understand that solidarity has the power to change and save lives, and Cinema has the potential to transform realities and worlds. Only united can we stand up to the authorities, against censorship and suppression of critical voices. We stand in solidarity with all oppressed people in Iran. Jin, Jiyan, Azadî! Women, Life, Freedom!

We see you, we hear you, we will stand with you against this oppressive system.”

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