France calls for Jafar Panahi’s release

Iranian director taken into custody late Monday

BRUSSELS — France’s culture minister Frederic Mitterrand has called on the Iranian authorities to release the director Jafar Panahi, arrested along with members of his family on Monday night.

Mitterrand’s statement of solidarity with the helmer came as Gaul’s leading association of film directors, the Societe des realisateurs de films (SRF), demanded action to free Panahi.

“We call on our government, and in particular the minister of culture and communication, to do everything possible to secure the release of Jafar Panahi and his family,” the SRF said in a statement.

News of Panahi’s arrest reached Europe through news agencies Tuesday morning. 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. 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.

Last month, the travel ban prevented Panahi from attending the Berlin fest, where he was to participate in a panel discussion on Iranian Cinema: Present and Future during World Cinema Fund Day.