Leading European festivals, film academies and funders have called for the freedom of Iranian film director Mohammad Rasoulof.
Rasoulof was last week summoned to serve a one-year prison sentence in Iran three days after his film “There is No Evil” won the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear, according to his lawyer and a report by London-based Iran International TV.
The European Film Academy, Cannes Film Festival, the Berlinale, the Deutsche Filmakademie, the Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, the Filmfest Hamburg, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), the Netherlands Film Fund and the Accademia del Cinema Italiano-Premi David di Donatello have all expressed concern about Rasoulof’s imminent incarceration.
Rasoulof is one of his country’s most prominent directors, even though none of his films have screened in Iran, where they are banned.
Wim Wenders, president of the European Film Academy, said: “Our colleague Mohammad Rasoulof is an artist who keeps telling us about a reality we would otherwise know little about. His Golden Bear-winning film ‘There Is No Evil’ is a deeply humane portrait of people in extreme situations, situations no human should be forced to experience. We need voices like that of Mohammad Rasoulof — voices defending human rights, freedom and dignity.”
Berlinale directors Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian said: “We are deeply concerned about the incarceration order for Mohammad Rasoulof. It’s shocking that a director is punished so hard for his artistic work. We hope that the Iranian authorities will soon revise the judgment.”
Ulrich Matthes, president of the Deutsche Filmakademie, added: “Mohammad Rasoulof’s films not only tell us about life in Iran but also speak to us in the universal language of cinema to promote empathy and peace. We need artists like Mohammad Rasoulof to be able to raise their voice without fear of reprisal.”
In 2011, the year he won two prizes at Cannes with his censorship-themed “Goodbye,” Rasoulof was sentenced with fellow director Jafar Panahi to six years in prison and a 20-year ban on filmmaking for alleged anti-regime propaganda.
His sentence was later suspended and he was released on bail. In 2017, Iranian authorities confiscated Rasoulof’s passport upon his return from the Telluride Film Festival where his “A Man of Integrity,” about corruption and injustice in Iran had screened.
Prior to the Berlin Film Festival, the director told Variety in an interview that while shooting the film, he received a text message “that informed me that the appeal confirmed the sentence,” adding that he was “still waiting” for another text to inform him when the sentence would be executed.
Rasoulof was not allowed by Iranian authorities to attend Berlin. The director’s daughter, Baran Rasoulof, who stars in “There is No Evil,” accepted the fest’s top prize on her father’s behalf.