Jailed director Jafar Panahi, who was sentenced by an Iranian court in December to six years in prison, will have a symbolic seat on the international jury at the Berlin Film Festival.
In protest at a verdict it said violated “the right to freedom of opinion and expression,” the Berlinale announced Friday that it was holding a place open on the jury for Panahi “to signal its support for his struggle for freedom.”
Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick had invited Panahi to serve on the jury shortly before he was sentenced. The decision to hold the jury seat for him is part of a festwide initiative to support the helmer, who won a Silver Bear in Berlin in 2006 for “Offside.”
An Iranian court found Panahi guilty of propaganda against the system along with fellow filmmaker and collaborator Mohammad Rasoulof. Panahi was also banned from making films, traveling abroad or giving interviews for 20 years.
The international jury, headed this year by Isabella Rossellini (who stars in Berlinale screener “Late Bloomers”), selects the winners in the competition section and hands out the Golden and the Silver Bears as well as the Alfred Bauer Prize.
Also on the jury are Oz producer Jan Chapman (“Griff the Invisible”); German thesp Nina Hoss (“We Are the Night”); Canadian director Guy Maddin (“My Winnipeg”); Bollywood multihyphenate Aamir Khan (“3 Idiots,” “Mumbai Diaries”); and costume designer Sandy Powell (“The Young Victoria”).
The Berlinale runs Feb. 10-20.