Jafar Panahi, one of Iran’s most prolific filmmakers, has been ordered to finish out a six-year prison sentence from 2010. He was detained last week in Tehran.
Iranian officials first arrested and sentenced Panahi, 62, on charges of producing anti-government propaganda in 2010 and 2011. But the sentencing was never enforced. The order from Iran’s judiciary to now enforce that sentence, as announced by spokesman Masoud Setayeshi, comes amid heightened efforts by the government to silence criticism as Iran faces political and economic pressures.
Panahi is no stranger to angering the Iranian government through his art. His work often takes on issues of censorship and social and cultural restriction within in the Islamic Republic. Since the 2010 arrest, he has been barred from leaving the country despite winning awards at several film festivals since then, including the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear in 2015 for “Taxi.” For a time, Panahi had specifically been barred from making any more movies and had been placed under house arrest, leading to the release of his experimental project “This Is Not a Film.”
After years of being allowed to move freely about the country, Panahi was arrested last Monday, July 11, after he visited the prosecutor’s office in Tehran to “follow up on the situation of another filmmaker, Mohammad Rasoulof,” the French news agency AFP reported. He was one of three filmmakers arrested by Iranian authorities in the matter of a week; Rasoulof and colleague Mostafa Aleahmad had also been detained the week prior after participating in protests over a building that had collapsed in the city of Abadan in May.
Panahi and other filmmakers’ arrest and detention has drawn widespread criticism from rights groups and the film industry at large, with the Cannes Film Festival releasing a statement last week that called for their release.
“The Festival de Cannes strongly condemns these arrests as well as the wave of repression obviously in progress in Iran against its artists. The Festival calls for the immediate release of Mohammad Rasoulof, Mostafa Aleahmad and Jafar Panahi,” the festival wrote in a statement: “The Festival de Cannes also wishes to reassert its support to all those who, throughout the world, are subjected to violence and repression. The Festival remains and will always remain a haven for artists from all over the world and it will relentlessly be at their service in order to convey their voices loud and clear, in the defense of freedom of creation and freedom of speech.”
The news of Setayeshi’s announcement for Panahi to serve his outstanding prison sentence was reported and confirmed by the AP.