Prominent Iranian author Mohammad Rasoulof, winner of the 2020 Berlin Golden Bear for ‘There Is No Evil’, and fellow filmmaker Mostafa Al-Ahmad have been arrested in Iran for publishing a statement on social networks following a violent government crackdown.
Iranian state news agency IRNA reported on Friday that the two directors were arrested for publishing an appeal urging Iranian security forces to stop using weapons using the hashtag #put_your_gun_down following protests in May in the southwestern city of Abadan, where there were clashes with police. The tumult was caused by the collapse of a building which killed 41 people.
The appeal against the police brutality for which Rasoulov and Al-Ahmad were arrested was signed by at least 70 other members of Iran’s film community, according to The Associated Press.
Rasulov’s Iranian producers Kaveh Farnam and Farzad Pak released a statement calling for their release.
“On Friday July 8, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad, respected and dedicated Iranian filmmakers, were arrested from their homes in a coordinated and brutal attack under false pretences and transferred to an unknown location,” the statement said.
“As we continue to strongly condemn the authorities for their disregard for fundamental human rights and civil liberties and the continued repression and pressure inflicted on committed and independent Iranian filmmakers, we demand the immediate and unconditional release of our colleagues. We ask for the support of artists and filmmakers around the world for the release of imprisoned artists,” he added.
Rasoulov is one of the most prominent Iranian directors even if none of his films have been screened in Iran where they are banned. In 2011, the year he won two Cannes awards with his censorship-themed ‘Goodbye’, he and fellow director Jafar Panahi were sentenced to six years in prison and a 20-year ban on make films for alleged anti-regime propaganda. His sentence was later suspended and he was released on bail. In 2017, Iranian authorities confiscated Rasoulof’s passport after he returned from the Telluride Film Festival where his “A Man of Integrity,” about corruption and injustice in Iran, was screened.
He has not been allowed by Iranian authorities to travel to Berlin in 2020. The director’s daughter, Baran Rasoulof, who stars in ‘There Is No Evil’ – which consists of four linked episodes centering on the death penalty and the repression of personal freedom in Iran – accepted the first prize of the festival on behalf of his father.
“There is a conservative reaction [in Iran]and its impact on cinema is very obvious,” he said. Variety in an interview from Iran during the festival.