Golden Bear winner Mohammad Rasoulof sentenced to jail after authorities find his work 'propaganda against system'

Mohammad Rasoulof’s sentence arose from three films that Iran’s authorities found to be “propaganda against the system”

FP Staff March 10, 2020 09:36:38 IST
Golden Bear winner Mohammad Rasoulof sentenced to jail after authorities find his work 'propaganda against system'

Mohammad Rasoulof, the Iranian director who won the top award at last month’s Berlin film festival, has been ordered to serve a one-year prison sentence over his movies, his lawyer has said, reports The Associated Press.

Rasoulof’s sentence arose from three films that Iran’s authorities found to be “propaganda against the system”, his lawyer Nasser Zarafshan told The Associated Press. The sentence also included an order that he stop film-making for two years, the lawyer said.

Golden Bear winner Mohammad Rasoulof sentenced to jail after authorities find his work propaganda against system

Mohammad Rasoulof. Image from Twitter

According to Zarafshan, Rasoulof received the order via a text message from the judiciary. Rasoulof will not turn himself in to authorities and will appeal the order, especially given the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Iran, the lawyer said. Authorities have already sent 54,000 prisoners home from jail temporarily in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading through the country’s penal system.

As per reports, multiple high-profile European organizations have urged for the freedom of the Iranian filmmaker. The European Film Academy, Berlin International Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Deutsche Filmakademie, Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, Filmfest Hamburg, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Netherlands Film Fund and Accademia del cinema italiano-Premi David di Donatello, have all issued statements demanding the release of Rasoulof, state reports.

Deadline quoted Berlin Film Festival directors Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian saying, “We are deeply concerned about the incarceration order for Mohammad Rasoulof. It’s shocking that a director is punished so hard for his artistic work. We hope that the Iranian authorities will soon revise the judgment."

There was no immediate state media report about Rasoulof’s summons, nor any comment from judiciary officials.

Rasoulof won the Golden Bear for his film There Is No Evil, which tells four stories loosely connected to the use of the death penalty in Iran and dealing with personal freedom under tyranny. Rasoulof could not go to Berlin to accept the award in person, because he is banned from travelling by Iranian authorities. Organisers left an empty chair and place sign for Rasoulof at the news conference for his entry. The director’s daughter, Baran, accepted the award on his behalf.

Rasoulof has faced problems before for his work in Iran. In 2011, he and fellow director Jafar Panahi were arrested in Iran for filming without a permit. The pair were sentenced to six years in prison and were banned from film-making for 20 years on charges that included “making propaganda” against the ruling system, but Rasoulof’s punishment was later reduced to a year on appeal.

His film Goodbye won a prize at Cannes in 2011, but the director was not allowed to travel to France to accept it. He was also prevented from travelling to Germany in 2013 after his passport was confiscated by authorities.

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