DUBAI, United Arab Emirates ( Associated Press) — Iran has arrested an internationally renowned filmmaker, multiple newspapers reported Tuesday, the third Iranian director to be jailed in less than a week as the government steps up a crackdown on the country’s storied film industry.
Jafar Panahi, one of Iran’s best-known dissident filmmakers, had gone to the prosecutor’s office in Tehran on Monday night to check the cases of his two colleagues detained last week, when security forces also arrested him, according to the reports.
A colleague of Panahi’s, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, told The Associated Press that authorities sent Panahi to Iran’s notorious Evin prison to serve a prison sentence that dates back years.
In 2011, Panahi received a six-year prison sentence on charges of creating anti-government propaganda and was banned from making films for 20 years. He was also banned from leaving the country.
However, the sentence was never really enforced and Panahi continued to make underground films, without script approval or government permissions, which were released abroad to great acclaim.
Panahi has won multiple festival awards, including the 2015 Berlin Golden Bear for “Taxi,” a far-reaching meditation on poverty, sexism and censorship in Iran, and the 2000 Venice Golden Lion for “The Circle”, a deep dive into women. she lives in the patriarchal society of Iran.
The Berlin International Film Festival said it was “shocked and outraged” to learn of Panahi’s arrest.
“The arrest of Jafar Panahi is another violation of freedom of expression and freedom of the arts,” festival directors said.
His arrest came after the arrest of two other Iranian filmmakers, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa al-Ahmad.
Authorities accused Rasoulof and al-Ahmad of undermining the nation’s security by voicing opposition on social media to the government’s violent crackdown on unrest in the country’s southwest.
Following the catastrophic Metropol building collapse that killed at least 41 people in May, protests erupted over allegations of government negligence and deep-seated corruption. Police responded with a heavy hand, beating protesters and firing tear gas, according to images widely circulated online.
Rasoulof won the first prize at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival for his film “There Is No Evil,” which explores four stories loosely connected to the themes of Iran’s death penalty and personal freedoms under tyranny. In 2011, Rasoulof’s film “Goodbye” won an award at Cannes but he was not allowed to travel to France to accept it.
The Cannes Film Festival strongly condemned the arrests of the three filmmakers “as well as the obviously ongoing wave of repression in Iran against its artists.”
The increased pressure on the filmmakers follows a wave of arrests in recent months as tensions rise between Iran’s hardline government and the West. The security forces have detained several foreigners as talks to revive Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers have stalled