Orgs line up to help imprisoned director

Iran arrests noted helmer Jafar Panahi, family

The French government and European film orgs are calling on authorities in Iran to release Iranian director Jafar Panahi, arrested along with members of his family on Monday night.

Iran is not commenting on the incident, but the filmmaker is a longtime critic of the establishment who openly faulted the outcome of last year’s presidential elections, which returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power, and backs opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

On Tuesday France’s culture minister, Frederic Mitterrand, urged Iran to free Panahi.

His statement of solidarity with the helmer came as Gaul’s leading association of film directors, the Societe des Realisateurs de Films, demanded action. “We call on our government to do everything possible to secure the release of Jafar Panahi and his family,” the SRF said in a statement.

The Federation of European Film Directors also weighed in, calling the incident “a disgraceful attempt at silencing a fellow film director, a blatant violation of fundamental human rights that speaks to the oppressive nature of the current Iranian regime.”

According to reports, the director, his wife and daughter plus some 15 guests were taken into custody and his house in Tehran searched. Panahi was briefly arrested in 2009 for taking part in a memorial to anti-government demonstrators killed in riots after the election. He was subsequently forbidden to leave the country.

Panahi is one of the leading voices in modern Iranian cinema. He won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995 for his debut feature “The White Balloon,” Venice’s Golden Lion for “The Circle” in 2000 and the Silver Bear at the Berlinale in 2006 for “Offside” — films that are all banned in Iran.