I was saddened and dismayed to learn today of the sentencing of directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof to six years in prison for planning to make a documentary film that would have allegedly incited protests against the Iranian government.
Panahi made two of my favorite films of the past decade: The Circle (2000), a tough, feminist drama about a pregnant woman seeking an illegal abortion in a nameless Iranian city and Offside (2006), a wonderful comedy about female football fans dressing up as men in order to attend a live match at Tehran’s Azadi stadium. I cited both of them in one of the earliest posts I wrote at this blog: My Top 100 Films of the Decade.
I am unfamiliar with Mohammad Rasoulof’s work but his highly regarded 2002 film The Twilight is distributed on home video in the U.S. by Chicago’s Facets Multimedia. In protest of the sentencing, the Facets Cinematheque will be holding a free screening of Panahi’s The Circle on Sunday, January 16th. According to an e-mail I received, “Guest speakers will help provide context for Panahi’s long journey since his arrest and imprisonment earlier this year.”
If you admire Iranian cinema or are concerned about human rights in general, I strongly urge you to attend the Facets screening. If you cannot make it, please at least sign this online petition calling for the release of two filmmakers whose only crime was to begin pre-production on a movie: Panahi Petition.
Iran has a surprisingly long and rich cinematic history. I will try and post more about it early next year.