Home News Dissident Iranian Filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof Flees Iran

Dissident Iranian Filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof Flees Iran

1
0


Mohammad Rasoulof, the dissident Iranian filmmaker who was last week sentenced to eight years in prison by the Islamic Revolution Court, has fled the country, according to a statement shared with the press.

The director is an “undisclosed location” in Europe, according to the announcement. In his statement, Rasoulof writes: “With a heavy heart, I chose exile. The Islamic Republic confiscated my passport in September 2017. Therefore, I had to leave Iran secretly.”

The sentencing came ahead of the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, where the director’s latest feature, Seed of the Sacred Fig Tree is set to premiere in competition. In today’s statement, Rasoulof writes that his decision to leave the country came after he received his prison sentence and knew that his new film was likely to earn him a new sentence.

He adds: “About a month ago, my lawyers informed me that my eight-year prison sentence was confirmed in the court of appeal and would be implemented on short notice. Knowing that the news of my new film would be revealed very soon, I knew that without a doubt, a new sentence would be added to these eight years. I didn’t have much time to make a decision. I had to choose between prison and leaving Iran. With a heavy heart, I chose exile.”

The director, who has been an outspoken critic of Islamic Republic, was arrested in July 2022 for signing a petition calling on security forces to exercise restraint in relation to popular protests. Released temporarily in February 2023 on health grounds, he has remained under house arrest ever since, and was notified there would be a new case opened against him about his 2020 film There Is No Evil. In addition to the eight-year prison sentence, an Iranian court also ruled that Rasoulof would be flogged, fined, and have his property confiscated.

Last week, Rasoulof’s lawyer Babak Paknia said on X following the sentencing, “The main reason for issuing this sentence is for signing statements and making films and documentaries. In the court’s opinion, these actions were examples of collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the country’s security.”

It is currently unclear if Rasoulof will be attending the Cannes screening of Seed of the Sacred Fig Tree. t has been reported that Iranian authorities put the director under pressure to withdraw Seed of the Sacred Fig Tree from Cannes entirely. Rasoulof addressed this, writing that actors and others behind the film who have been unable to leave the country are being pressured, interrogated, and banned from leaving the country.

Read the full statement from Rasoulof below.

I arrived in Europe a few days ago after a long and complicated journey.

About a month ago, my lawyers informed me that my eight-year prison sentence was confirmed in the court of appeal and would be implemented on short notice. Knowing that the news of my new film would be revealed very soon, I knew that without a doubt, a new sentence would be added to these eight years. I didn’t have much time to make a decision. I had to choose between prison and leaving Iran. With a heavy heart, I chose exile. The Islamic Republic confiscated my passport in September 2017. Therefore, I had to leave Iran secretly.

Of course, I strongly object to the unjust recent ruling against me that forces me into exile. However, the judicial system of the Islamic Republic has issued so many cruel and strange decisions that I do not feel it is my place to complain about my sentence. Death sentences are being executed as the Islamic Republic has targeted the lives of protesters and civil rights activists. It’s hard to believe, but right now as I’m writing this, the young rapper, Toomaj Salehi is held in prison and has been sentenced to death. The scope and intensity of repression has reached a point of brutality where people expect news of another heinous government crime every day. The criminal machine of the Islamic Republic is continuously and systematically violating human rights.

Before the Islamic Republic’s intelligence services were informed about my film’s production, a number of the actors managed to leave Iran. However, many of the actors and agents of the film are still in Iran and the intelligence system is pressuring them. They have been put through lengthy interrogations. The families of some of them were summoned and threatened. Due to their appearance in this movie, court cases were filed against them, and they were banned from leaving the country. They raided the office of the cinematographer, and all his work equipment was taken away. They also prevented the film’s sound engineer from traveling to Canada. During the interrogations of the film crew, the intelligence forces asked them to pressure me to withdraw the film from the Cannes Festival. They were trying to convince the film crew that they were not aware of the film’s story and that they had been manipulated into participating in the project.

Despite the vast limitations I and my colleagues and friends faced while making the film, I tried to achieve a cinematic narrative that is far from the narrative dominated by the censorship in the Islamic Republic, and closer to its reality. I have no doubt that restricting and suppressing freedom of expression cannot be justified even if it becomes a spur for creativity, but when there is no way, a way must be made.

The world’s cinema community must ensure effective support for the makers of such films. Freedom of speech should be defended, loudly and clearly. People who courageously and selflessly confront censorship instead of supporting it are reassured of the importance of their actions by the support of international film organizations. As I know from personal experience, it can be an invaluable help for them to continue their vital work.

Many people helped to make this film. My thoughts are with all of them, and I fear for their safety and well-being.”



Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here