Berlinale focuses on Panahi

Fest plans series of screenings and events

In a show of support for Jafar Panahi, the Berlinale is holding a number of events dedicated to the imprisoned Iranian filmmaker at the upcoming film festival.

“In his films, Jafar Panahi critically explores the social situation in his homeland. His conviction violates the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the arts,” the Berlinale said in a statement Tuesday.

The fest, which runs Feb. 10-20, will show several of Panahi’s films in a number of its sections to “draw attention to the extraordinary oeuvre for which this artist has been sentenced by the Iranian regime.”

Panahi was arrested last March on unspecified charges and later accused of making an anti-regime film about the aftermath of Iran’s disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Last month, an Iranian court found Panahi guilty of “propaganda against the system,” and sentenced him and fellow filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof to six years in prison. The court also banned Panahi from making films, writing scripts, traveling abroad or giving interviews for 20 years.

Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick, who invited Panahi to be on this year’s international jury, said, “We are going to use every opportunity to protest against this drastic verdict.”

First film to screen will be femme soccer story “Offside,” which won a Silver Bear at the 2006 Berlinale. Pic will unspool Feb. 11, the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.

Other Panahi films will be presented in the Panorama, Forum, Generation and Berlinale Shorts sections. In addition, the Talent Campus and the World Cinema Fund are organizing a panel discussion with Iranian filmmakers on censorship and restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression in Iran.

Iranian director and actor Rafi Pitts, whose film “The Hunter” screened in competition in Berlin last year, has already confirmed his attendance. The fest is due to announce further attendees, including filmmakers and artists living in exile as well as Berlinale guests, in the coming days.

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