Jailed Iranian directors a 'hot topic' at Sundance?

If you notice some Hollywood stars, directors and business types sporting white lapel ribbons at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, they’ll be wearing them “to register their opposition to the Iranian government’s treatment of acclaimed director Jafar Panahi (‘Offside’) and fellow filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, who were sentenced last month to six years in prison and banned from making movies for 20 years,” the Los Angeles Times explains.

The Iranian government arrested Panahi and Rasoulof in March, charging them with making an authorized movie that chronicled the protest movement that followed the disputed 2009 reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They were convicted of violating national security by making the film and are appealing their case.

Panahi and Rasoulof’s plight “will definitely be a hot topic” at Sundance, the L.A. Times predicts, noting that two Iranian-born filmmakers whose work will be screened at the festival have spoken out about their struggle and the difficulties of making films in Iran.

Maryam Keshavarz, an Iranian-born, New York-based filmmaker whose drama CIRCUMSTANCE will premiere at Sundance in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, said that filmmakers are increasingly making films outside of Iran, even though they take place there. “It’s nearly impossible to get permits, and producers don’t want to take the risk,” she told the L.A. Times. “I shot ‘Circumstance’ in Lebanon.”

Ali Samadi Ahadi, whose documentary THE GREEN WAVE will premiere in the World Cinema Documentary competition section, added that, though he lives in Germany, after he spoke out about Panahi during an interview, his sister, who lives in Iran, was visited by the secret police.

“The only thing you can do is do what you think is right,” he told the paper. “If we are talking human rights … then we have to say that Jafar Panahi had made nothing illegal. He used his fundamental human rights and his fundamental rights as a filmmaker. That is the reason we have to raise our voice to say ‘stop.’ He is really the representation of all filmmakers in Iran and normal people in the streets. If they do that with Jafar Panahi, you can ask yourself how easy can they put pressure on the normal people to be quiet.”