In good news for great filmmakers (and bad news for repressive regimes), director Jafar Panahi has been released on bail. Director of such notable, and increasingly status-challenging, films as The White Balloon, The Mirror, Offside, The Circle, and Crimson Gold, Panahi has been in prison since his home was raided on March 1st. Recently, Panahi began a hunger strike. Coupled with the attention brought to his plight at Cannes—where a seat was left empty on the jury and where fellow Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami expressed his support—it looks like Panahi's continued imprisonment began to provide too much bad publicity even for the government of Iran.
Critic Godfrey Chesire, an expert on Iranian filmmaking, has detailed analysis of the situation over at Salon that's a must-read for those looking to understand the situation better, explaining the relatively moderate political stances that got Panahi and trouble and the love/hate relationship Iran has with its vibrant filmmaking culture.