Film director Mohammad Rasoulof flees Iran after being sentenced to eight years in jail and lashing | Culture | EUROtoday

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Film director Mohammad Rasoulof has escaped from his native Iran after a court docket final week sentenced him to eight years in jail, lashings and confiscation of his property for the crime of “collusion with the intent to commit crimes against security.” from the nation”. “With a heavy heart, I have chosen exile. The Islamic Republic confiscated my passport in September 2017. Therefore, I had to leave Iran secretly,” reads a statement released this Monday by the filmmaker from “an undisclosed location” in Europe.

Rasoulof has announced his escape one day before the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival begins, where his new film, The Seed of the Sacred Fig (Seed of the sacred fig tree). A production that the Iranian assures in his letter will bring him a new sentence. “About a month ago, my lawyers informed me that my sentence of eight years in prison had been confirmed in the appeal court and would be carried out shortly. Knowing that the news of my new film would be known very soon, I knew that, without a doubt, a new sentence would be added to those eight years. He didn't have much time to make a decision. I had to choose between jail or leaving Iran. With a heavy heart, I chose exile.”

The Iranian filmmaker is currently one of the most important in his country. In 2020 he won the Golden Bear with The lives of others and in 2017 his film A Man of Integrity It was chosen as best film in the Un Certain Regard section. His cinema, critical of the ayatollah regime, has led him to have numerous problems with the country's authorities, for which he has already been sentenced to prison terms on two occasions. He was arrested for the last time in July 2022 for criticizing the repression of protests sparked by the collapse of a building that caused dozens of deaths. Eight months later he was released for health reasons, but under house arrest.

Last week, Rasoulof's lawyer, Babak Paknia, stated on the social network X that “the primary purpose for this sentence is having made movies and documentaries.” “In the opinion of the court, these actions were examples of collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the security of the country.” In his letter, the director does not clarify whether he will be present at the premiere of his film in Cannes and warns that part of the cast and others responsible for the film are being “pressured, interrogated and are prohibited from leaving the nation.”

The Seed of the Sacred Fig It is set in the recent protests in Tehran and has a judge as its protagonist. It was shot in secret and is the first film by its director that will compete for the Palme d'Or after competing with two films in minor sections. The Iranian government's repression of filmmakers is not new; In 2023 Jafar Panahi was sentenced to six years in prison for participating in anti-government protests.

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