Iranian director, opposition campaigner wins award

Wed Nov 25, 2009 1:05pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf won the Freedom to Create Prize on Wednesday, and dedicated his award to leading cleric Hossein Ali Montazeri and the popular opposition movement he supports.

Makhmalbaf, 52, is a respected film maker who won international acclaim with his 2001 Afghan picture "Kandahar."

He is also one of Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi's most well-known and vocal supporters overseas, having left Iran around five years ago.

"I've been in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and India making films about Iran but from the outside," he told Reuters in London before receiving the annual award that honors artists working in difficult or dangerous environments.

"All my scripts were banned, so I moved from Iran to make more films. If I went to Iran I would go directly to prison. This not only goes for me, but also my family."

Makhmalbaf, whose daughters Samira and Hana are also film makers, said he would use the prize, which comes with a $50,000 purse, to highlight what he called injustice in Iran.

"People of my country are killed, imprisoned, tortured and raped just for their votes. We as artists are using these awards to shed light on the darkness."

He described Montazeri as a key "spiritual leader" of the Green Movement, named after the green colors worn by Mousavi's sympathizers who took to the streets to protest against the outcome of the presidential election in June.   Continued...

<p>Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf (R) speaks with students, who are supporters of Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, as they take part in a rally in downtown Rome, in support of the demonstrations in Tehran June 23, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>