Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi has issued a statement explaining his defiance of Iran’s official ban against him making movies, which he has repeatedly broken, most recently with his feature “Taxi,” slated for competition at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival.
“Nothing can prevent me from making films since when being pushed to the ultimate corners I connect with my inner-self and, in such private spaces, despite all limitations, the necessity to create becomes even more of an urge,” Panahi said in the statement.
“Cinema as an Art becomes my main preoccupation. That is the reason why I have to continue making films under any circumstances to pay my respect and feel alive,” the prolific filmmaker added.
“Taxi” (pictured), in which Panahi plays a Tehran cabbie driving a diverse mix of candidly confiding passengers around town, is Panahi’s third film smuggled abroad since 2010, when he was arrested by Iranian authorities and banned from moviemaking.
His other two post-ban pics are “This Is Not a Film” and “Closed Curtain,” which competed in Berlin in 2013 where it won the screenplay prize, prompting official protests from the Iranian government that year.
Since 2014, when the relatively more progressive Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office, the country’s filmmakers are feeling a somewhat less chilly climate, though the ban on Panahi officially remains in place. While a six-year jail sentence against him has not been enforced, and Panahi is no longer under house arrest, he is not allowed to leave the country.
Prior to the 2010 ban Panahi won the Venice Golden Lion in 2000 for “The Circle,” and the Un Certain Regard Jury prize in Cannes for “Crimson Gold” in 2003, among other prestigious nods.
Sales of “Taxi” will be handled at the upcoming Berlin fest’s European Film Market by French sales company Celluloid Dreams, with which Panahi has a longstanding rapport.
News of Panahi’s statement and Celluloid Dreams handling sales of “Taxi” was first reported by Screen International.