Jafar Panahi, the great Iranian director behind such films as Crimson Gold and The White Balloon—if you haven't seen them, time to update the Netflix queue—was taken from his home on March 1st and imprisoned for non-specific charges. Since then, specific charges involving making a film against the government. That's a big deal in Iran, particularly for a filmmaker whose films have been banned in his home country for 10 years who's been arrested before.
It is, in short, a terrible situation. It's also one that's tough to fight beyond raising awareness of it. To that end, Paul Thomas Anderson, The Coens, Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorsese and many others have signed a petition calling for Panahi's release. Want to read the whole thing with all the names? Here it is:
Jafar Panahi, the internationally acclaimed Iranian director of such award-winning films as The White Balloon, The Circle, Crimson Gold and Offside, was arrested at his home on March 1st in a raid by plain-clothed security forces. He has been held since then in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.
A recent letter from Mr. Panahi’s wife expressed her deep concerns about her husband's heart condition, and about his having been moved to a smaller cell. Mr. Panahi’s films have been banned from screening in Iran for the past ten years and he has effectively been kept from working for the past four years. Last October, his passport was confiscated and he was banned from leaving the country. Upon his arrest, Islamic Republic officials initially charged Mr. Panahi with “unspecified crimes.” They have since reversed themselves, and the charges are nowspecifically related to his work as a filmmaker.
We (the undersigned) stand in solidarity with a fellow filmmaker, condemn this detention, and strongly urge the Iranian government to release Mr. Panahi immediately.
Iran’s contributions to international cinema have been rightfully heralded, and encouraged those of us outside the country to respect and cherish its people and their stories. Like artists everywhere, Iran’s filmmakers should be celebrated, not censored, repressed, and imprisoned.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Joel & Ethan Coen
Francis Ford Coppola
Robert De Niro
Petition Organizing Committee: Jamsheed Akrami, Godfrey Cheshire, Jem Cohen, Kent Jones, Anthony Kaufman