Two filmmakers jailed in Iran for propaganda against the state will have their films screened at the Cannes Film Festival. In separate cases, Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof were each sentenced to six years in prison after both were found guilty of inciting opposition protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential election that was disputed by many in the country and led to months of sometimes-violent protests. Both directors are vocal opponents of Iran's strict form of Islamic law.
Rasoulof's 'Be Omid e Didar (Goodbye),' the story of a young lawyer in search of a visa to leave Iran, will screen May 13 as an official selection in the Un Certain Regard category. Panahi's 'In Film Nist (This Is Not a Film),' co-directed with Mojtaba Mirtahmas, details the director's efforts to appeal the verdict in court case against him. It will he shown on May 20, and is said to give an honest overview of the current state of Iranian cinema.
Steven Spielberg, Roger Ebert, Juliette Binoche, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Paul Haggis ('Crash') and Sean Penn, as well as humanitarian organizations like Amnesty International, have all spoken out against Iran's treatment of the filmmakers and demanded their release. While the Iranian government has insisted Panahi and Rasoulof's arrests were not political, both filmmakers are known for including social commentary in their award-winning films.
"Mohammad Rasoulof's film and the conditions under which it was made, Jafar Panahi's 'diary' of the days of his life as an artist not allowed to work, are by their very existence a resistance to the legal action which affects them," Cannes Film Festival President Gilles Jacob and Cannes delegate Thierry Frémaux said in a statement. "That they send them to Cannes, at the same time, the same year, when they face the same fate, is an act of courage along with an incredible artistic message."
Panahi won Camera d'Or honors at Cannes in 1995 for his first film, 'The White Balloon,' and the 2000 Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for 'The Circle.' He was arrested in February 2010 in Iran's capital city of Tehran.
In a letter to the festival dated May 5, Panahi said, "The reality of being alive and the dream of keeping cinema alive motivated us to go through the existing limitations in Iranian cinema."
The Cannes Film Festival runs May 11–22 in Cannes, France.