Cannes presser grows emotional over fate of Jafar Panahi

Abbas Kiarostami’s next film after “Certified Copy,” his first feature shot outside Iran, will see the auteur return to making movies in his own country despite the intense political turbulence there, which caused sadness and commotion at the pic’s presser Tuesday.

Kiarostami is preparing to shoot “Father and Son” (working title), starting in September, starring Iranian thesp Hamed Behdad (“No One Knows About Persian Cats”).

“It’s quite hard to say what it’s about because it does not have a narrative structure, but it’s from an idea that I’ve had for several years,” said Kiarostami, who is keeping mum about other details. MK2 is likely to be handling internationally.

Meanwhile, conflicting information about the fate of fellow Iranian helmer Jafar Panahi, who’s been incarcerated in Tehran since March, reportedly because he was making a film about the disputed 2009 presidential election, took center stage.

Just after Kiarostami announced he had received a phone call from Panahi’s wife saying there was hope he might be freed, a journalist started crying while saying that Panahi’s detention has instead been extended, causing Panahi to begin a hunger strike behind bars.

That bad news caused “Certified Copy” star Juliette Binoche to also break down in tears.

Since he has been back in Tehran after wrapping “Certified Copy,” which is set in Tuscany, Kiarostami has denounced Panahi’s arrest. He has protested by writing a letter, which was published by the New York Times and other newspapers, and there have been plenty of other protests inside and outside Iran.

The Cannes fest symbolically invited Panahi to be on its jury and left an empty seat on the jury panel.

French culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand and foreign minister Bernard Kouchner have also recently urged Iran to release the filmmaker. Panahi has sent a letter from prison to the fest denying he had been making a film against Iran’s leaders. “Warm greetings from my narrow and dark cell in Evin Prison,” it read.

“But so far none of this has had any effect,” Kiarostami told Variety.

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