Movie Talk

Filmmaker Jafar Panahi in trouble with Iranian government. Again.

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Director Jafar Panahi (Getty)

Filmmaker Jafar Panahi is in trouble with the Iranian government. Again. Panahi won Best Screenplay for his movie “Closed Curtain” at the Berlin Film Festival, even though the acclaimed director has been banned from filmmaking. The award prompted the Iranian government to send the Berlinale jury an official complaint. The head of Iran's national film organization, Javad Shamaqdari, called the award inappropriate, as Panahi is prohibited from making films under Iranian law.

Iranian Shamaqdari stated that Berlinale officials should “correct their behavior. Everyone knows that making a film and sending it outside the country needs permission” In reply, Berlin officials released a statement saying that they hoped the screening of “Closed Curtain” and the award to Panahi would not lead to “any legal consequences for the filmmakers.” Festival director Dieter Kosslick has campaigned actively and vocally on Panahi's behalf, and asked Iran to allow Panahi to attend the festival, which was denied.

Panahi gained international fame with movies like “The White Balloon” and “The Circle” before he ran afoul of the Iranian government in 2010 with his involvement in a documentary about the controversial re-election of Iranian present Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Panahi was banned from making movies for 20 years and sentenced to six years in prison for the crime of propaganda against the state. The day before he was to stand trial, Panahi made the film “This is Not a Film,” chronicling the events of that day. Smuggled out of the country, the film played at Cannes in 2011 to great acclaim.

Iran's official policy, per Shamaqdari, is that a license is required to make films and send them to be screened abroad. Shamaqdari went on to say that to do otherwise is illegal but that “so far the Islamic Republic has been patient with such behavior.” Presumably if that patience were to end, Panahi's imprisonment would change from house arrest to less amenable quarters, but as of this writing no official punishment has been directed at Panahi, merely the rebuke to the Berlin jury.

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