In quick succession, three figures of Iranian cinema have been arrested in recent days. On Friday July 8, Mohammad Rasoulof and his colleague Mostafa Al-Ahmad were arrested at their home and taken to detention on the grounds of their activism. “anti-revolutionary”. Monday, July 11, it was the turn of the filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who came to the prison where his two colleagues were imprisoned to worry about their fate, to be apprehended.
For a few years now, the Iranian authorities, whose interventions were more muted in the time of the filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, have tightened their yoke, playing cat and mouse with a few national filmmakers who do not fall into line. Jafar Panahi, ex-assistant of Kiarostami, winner of the Golden Lion in Venice, in 2000, for The circle, and Mohammad Rasoulof, winner of the Golden Bear, in 2020, at the Berlin Festival for The devil does not exist were particularly targeted, victims in turn of temporary arrests, prison sentences and bans on leaving the country. The filmmakers, often supported by film-loving institutions around the world, did their best to circumvent this arbitrariness.
For a few years now, the Iranian authorities have been playing cat and mouse with some national directors who do not fall into line
These arrests mark a new turn of the screw made in recent days. The directors, together with many other artists, had publicly denounced, on social networks, the police repression following a demonstration protesting against the collapse, on May 23, of a building in the south-west of the country, causing the death of forty-three people. The tragedy affected the Metropolis tower, in the city of Abadan, whose owner, Hossein Abdolbaghi, close to certain powerful figures of the Islamic Republic of Iran, had managed to circumvent safety standards during construction. Thousands of Iranians have thus taken to the streets, in Abadan and elsewhere, to denounce the corruption and incompetence of the authorities. Faced with this popular anger, repression was omnipresent. In their open letter, the Iranian filmmakers called on law enforcement to ” to file [leur] weapon »a phrase that has become a popular social media hashtag in Persian.
According to information relayed by one of Mr. Rasoulof’s lawyers, Maryam Kianersi, the filmmaker, placed in solitary confinement, is “under interrogation” at the notorious prison of Evin. So far, the enforcement of his one-year prison sentence, upheld in 2019, has been suspended. But his lawyers fear that the authorities will use this new arrest as a pretext to keep him in detention for a long time. Jafar Panahi, under a six-year prison sentence, pending since 2010, could also see his sentence applied.
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