×

Jailed Iranian Director Mahnaz Mohammadi Sparks Mounting International Outrage

Concern is mounting in the international film community over Iranian director, actress and women’s rights activist Mahnaz Mohammadi who on June 7th reportedly began serving a five year sentence in Iran’s Evin Prison, on the outskirts of Tehran, on charges of “plotting against state security” and “propaganda” against the Iranian regime.

The charges are purportedly prompted in part by allegations that she shot documentaries for the banned BBC Persian service and other Western outlets, and also worked for Al-Jazeera, besides her work on a docu about the disputed 2009 presidential elections that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the time claimed to have won.

The Evin prison, known for its political activist wing, is sometime referred to in Iran as “Evin University” due to the number of intellectuals who have been detained there.

“I have never worked with the BBC, and none of my films have ever been broadcasted on this network,” Mohammadi told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) earlier this month. “I have also been charged with having relations with al-Jazeera English, German and American media, Radio France International, and Voice of America,” she added.

Iran has a history of arresting people for alleged links to BBC Persian, the satellite service watched by millions across the country, despite being banned.

In 2011 prominent indie distributor and producer Katayoon Shahabi was incarcerated for three months on trumped-up charges of collaborating with BBC Persian.

Mohammadi has long been a passionate fighter and voice for women’s rights in Iran. She directed the short documentary “Women Without Shadows,” about the conditions of homeless and mentally handicapped women in Iranian state-run shelters, and contributed to Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s “We Are Half of Iran’s Population,” a docu on women’s demands during the disputed 2009 vote. The disputed outcome of that vote caused millions of Iranians to take to the streets in protest.

Her work on “We Are Half of Iran’s Population” brought to Mohammadi’s arrest on June 26th 2011 and incarceration in the Evin jail for about a month. Previously, in May 2011 Iranian authorities had seized Mohammadi’s passport to prevent her from travelling to Cannes for a screening in the fest’s ACID section of helmer Reza Serkanian’s relationship drama “Marriage Ephemeral,” in which she played the lead.

Mohammadi also directed 2006 docu “Travelogue” which shows many modern Iranian ills and contradictions, including disaffected people leaving the country, and touches on homosexuality.

She was summoned earlier this month to start serving her five-year sentence, initially handed down in October 2012 and later upheld in an appeals court.

Though Iran’s current president Hassan Rouhani is considered much more open-minded and progressive than his predecessors, he is also believed to be in a tough spot to act in this and other similar crackdown cases since Iran’s hardline judiciary is allegedly independent.

France’s Film Directors’ Guild (Société des réalisateurs de films) in a statement on Thursday (June 19) condemned Mohammadi’s incarceration, calling it a “new attack made to freedom of creation and expression in Iran.”

The Gallic guild has issued a petition and called for an international mobilisation for Mohammadi’s cause.

To sign the petition send an e-mail to : hrosiaux@la-srf.fr

Some 700 early signatories include outgoing Cannes prexy Gilles Jacob, helmers Hiam Abbas, Chantal Ackerman, Bertrand Tavernier, Laurent Cantet, Tony Gatlif, and Cedric Klapisch.

Here is a link to the petition: http://www.la-srf.fr/article/pétition-pour-la-libération-de-mahnaz-mohammadi

The day before her imprisonment, Mohammadi shot and recorded a powerful video message which the petitioners have made available (see above video)

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Metro 2033

    Cult Sci-Fi Novel 'Metro 2033' to Be Adapted as Movie (EXCLUSIVE)

    Russia’s TNT-Premier Studios Company, TV-3 Channel and Central Partnership Film Company – all part of Gazprom Media – have come together to produce a movie based on Dmitry Glukhovsky’s sci-fi novel “Metro 2033,” which has also been adapted as a video game. Filming is due to start next year. The Russian premiere of the movie [...]

  • Beforeigners

    'Beforeigners’' Anne Bjornstad on HBO's First Norwegian Original Series

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  HBO Europe’s first Norwegian original series, which debuted Aug. 21 exclusively across HBO’s territories, has garnered rave reviews in the Norwegian press. It is also a perfect fit for HBO’s brand and goal to create bold, smart and author-driven shows. Produced by Endemol Shine’s Norwegian prodco Rubicon TV, “Beforeigners” is helmed by [...]

  • Refugees from the besieged Muslim enclave

    Sarajevo’s True Stories Market: Documenting the Atrocities of War

    Reconciliation and dealing with the tragedies of the Yugoslav Wars has been a major focus of the Sarajevo Film Festival and its CineLink Industry Days event in recent years. The True Stories Market, launched in 2016, aims to connect filmmakers with organizations that are researching and documenting the Yugoslav Wars that spanned 1991 to 2001 [...]

  • Ena Sendijarevic’s ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’

    Ena Sendijarevic’s ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’ Wins Top Prize in Sarajevo

    “Take Me Somewhere Nice,” Bosnian director Ena Sendijarević’s coming-of-age story about a teen raised in the Netherlands who returns to Bosnia to visit her ailing father, won the top prize at the Sarajevo Film Festival Thursday night, earning the Amsterdam-based helmer the coveted Heart of Sarajevo Award. The jury heralded the “beautifully photographed, acted, scripted [...]

  • Khadar Ahmed - BUFO - photo

    Bufo Sets Key Cast for Co-Production ‘The Gravedigger' (EXCLUSIVE)

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —   Actor Omar Abdi, who starred in the Ahmed-scripted short “Citizens,” and actress Yasmin Warsame, who made her name as a Canadian model, will topline romantic-tragedy “The Gravedigger,” the latest big screen project from Bufo, the Helsinki-based outfit behind Berlinale winner “The Other Side of Hope.” The film follows a Djibouti gravedigger [...]

  • Jacobs Ladder Movie 2019

    Film Review: 'Jacob's Ladder'

    It’s understandable that someone would want to remake “Jacob’s Ladder,” Adrian Lyne’s 1990 head-trip thriller about a Vietnam veteran haunted by fragmentary nightmare visions. I was far from alone in finding the original to be an overwrought but rather thin “psychological” horror film that was more punishing than pleasurable. And it wasn’t exactly a hit, [...]

  • Fiddler A Miracle of Miracles

    Film Review: 'Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles'

    Still beloved and routinely revived 55 years after its Broadway debut — including a Yiddish-language version now playing in New York — “Fiddler on the Roof” is a popular phenomenon that shows no sign of subsiding. Max Lewkowicz’s “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” provides an entertaining if hardly exhaustive overview of how the unlikely success [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content