Pre-fest screening a 'demonstration of solidarity'

The Berlin Film Festival is continuing its support of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who is facing six years in prison for spreading propaganda against the system after a Tehran appeals court upheld the sentence earlier this month.

In a show of solidarity with Panahi and other jailed filmmakers, the Berlinale is joining the German Film Academy and Berlin public radio station Radioeins to screen Panahi’s “This Is Not a Film” on Nov. 9 in Berlin as “a public protest and recognition for the courage of these Iranian filmmakers who continue their work despite constant danger.”

Co-directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb — who was arrested in September — the film shows a day in the life of Panahi as he waits under house arrest for the outcome of his appeal. He has also been banned from filmmaking and travelling for 20 years.

“‘This is Not a Film’ is the defiance of a director who cannot desist from making films and presents the atrociousness of being banned from his profession without any self-pity whatsoever,” the Berlinale said.

“Convicting artists and banning them from their professions violates human rights, freedom of opinion and expression in the arts,” said Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick. “We sharply condemn such infringements and want to demonstrate our solidarity with this screening.”

In September, Mirtahmasb, Katayoon Shahabi, Hadi Afarideh, Naser Safarian, Shahnam Bazdar and Mohsen Shahrnazdar were also arrested as part of Tehran’s draconian crackdown on critics of the Islamic regime.

In December 2010 Panahi and fellow director Mohammad Rasoulof were charged with spreading “propaganda against the system,” and sentenced to six years in prison and banned from making films and travelling for the next 20 years.

This year’s Berlinale called attention to the plight of Panahi and other Iranian filmmakers with a number of initiatives. It also invited Panahi to serve on the international jury, which he was unable to do due to his arrest. Moved by his plight, the German Film Academy has launched “Filmmakers in Prison” to support politically persecuted filmmakers.

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