Recently, Iranian film director Jafar Panahi has been convicted to six years in prison in his native country, a sentence extended by the additional punishment of being banned from directing or producing films for the next twenty years. Fellow filmmaker Muhammad Rasoulof, who was arrested with Panahi in a 2009 mourning ceremony for deceased victims of the Iranian election protests, also received a six-year sentence.
Panahi was inciting protest and discontent with a documentary he was working on. Panahi is a well-known supporter of the Green movement and the opposition to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president.
He has already been arrested and jailed several times following the democratic protests of 2009. During his imprisonment in 2010 Panahi went on a hunger strike, and was bailed in May for the equivalent of $200,000 after an international campaign by film-makers including a dramatic demonstration at the Cannes prize-giving ceremony by Juliette Binoche. Now the Iranian state has spoken with chilling decision.
The Berlin film festival has already invited Panahi to join its jury in February 2011, for a start. Berlin, Cannes, Venice, London, Edinburgh, Sundance, Telluride and every film festival in the world should make Panahi their jury president, and keep doing so for every year this gross injustice is maintained. Jeremy Hunt, our culture secretary, should make representations.