Wednesday, 19 May 2010•
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs through France Culture held a panel discussion today. Speakers included French actress Juliette Binoche who stars in Abbas Kiarostami’s film Certified Copy (in competition here), Bahman Ghobadi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf. APSA Chairman Des Power and I attended along with leading film media and film festival officials. There is growing concern in the international community over the welfare of Jafar Panahi who has been in a Tehran prison since March. Jafar Panahi was on APSAs inaugural Jury in 2007.
Panahi is said to have started a hunger strike two days ago. There is concern amongst the Iranian film community here in Cannes that Panahi has taken such a strong stand in being the voice for this situation. Juliette Binoche read Kiarostami’s statement. Earlier in the year he published an open letter denouncing Panahi’s arrest and asking for his release. This letter has been published in the New York Times and many other papers (see link below). Many high profile filmmakers and organisations have expressed their solidarity since Panahi’s arrest and APSA Chairman Des Power called on the Australian government on March 3 this year to urge Iranian authorities to free Panahi. There has been growing international pressure over the past few months from all quarters of the film community.
All speakers at the conference expressed concern regarding a phone call from Panahi to his wife and Panahi’s statement that his family be permitted to have his body. They are very concerned by the heaviness of this phrase. Much was said of the role of filmmakers expressing their unique view of the world. Ghobadi asked why is it they did this to a great filmmaker from our country. Ghobadi ended by saying I hope in future years when Iranian filmmakers are invited to Cannes that there will not be these issues for film.
Makhmalbaf stated that for Panahi liberty is worth more than the body and that this is his stand. They stated that the green scarf (which Panahi wore everywhere prior to his arrest) will be worn by them at Cannes and Venice in order to talk about it and raise these issues. Cinemateque Francais is organising a day of action in Tehran. Ghobadi and Makhmalbaf stated that what unites us is the love of cinema and the importance of freedom. Ghobadi ended by saying Panahi is living in a fragile moment and it is important that he hears the world’s support. From 2003 to now he has been arrested three times and security has asked for him to present five times. It was said that Panahi has always defended liberty in his films and they are asking all Iranians in their homes to watch his films around the clock as a show of support.
I went and met with Ghobadi after this discussion. Such a generous man with his time. With the help of APSA Advisory Committee member Faramarz K-Rahber we were able to secure an interview with Mohsen Makhmalbaf which we conducted at four. Such an honour to meet this man after releasing his films at Dendy Cinemas over the years.
Competiton update: Of Gods and Men by Xavier Beauvois is looking very strong with critics liking it similarly to Mike Leigh’s Another Year. Certified Copy by Abbas Kiarostami has had mixed reviews. Had dinner with Nominations Council members Mohammad Atebbai, Yuka Sakano and Philip Cheah – more pizza! It is wonderful to see them outside of deliberation screenings and a nice way to end what had begun as a somber and concerning day.
Bahman Ghobadi, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Juliette Binoche and others at the the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’
press conference in Cannes about Jafar Panahi
New York Times, January 3 2010 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/world/middleeast/04iranfilms.html
Open Letter by Abbas Kiarostami, March 9 2010 http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/09/iranian-filmmaker-speaks-out-on-prisoners
Australian journalist Lynden Barber’s recent piece in The Australian newspaper, April 24 2010 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/arts/iran-jails-celebrated-director/story-e6frg8n6-1225857313252
Transcript of Radio National’s Movietime presenter Julie Rigg interviewing APSA Nominations Council member Anne Demy-Geroe http://www.abc.net.au/rn/movietime/stories/2010/2843428.htm