Iranian director says art is under attack at home

Tue May 18, 2010 10:24am EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami said on Tuesday his government's imprisonment of colleague Jafar Panahi is "intolerable," and that film-makers and art in general are under attack in his home country.

Kiarostami, debuting his "Copie Conforme" ("Certified Copy") in competition at the Cannes film festival, said that for decades independent filmmakers in Iran have faced obstacles created by a government seeking to control their work.

"The fact that a filmmaker has been imprisoned is, in itself, intolerable," Kiarostami said at a festival news conference, through an interpreter.

"Jafar Panahi was inclined to make his film under clandestine, illegal circumstances, but that's not his responsibility alone. The responsibility is that of the authorities who prevent him from carrying out his profession.

"So when a filmmaker -- an artist -- is imprisoned, it is art as a whole which is attacked, and it is against this that we should react," Kiarostami added.

Panahi, a maker of films that examine social issues in the Islamic Republic, was a supporter of Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in last year's disputed election that saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad retain power.

On March 1, Panahi and family members were held by Iranian security guards at his home, and since then Panahi has been in prison. Officials have confirmed the arrest but said it was not politically motivated, yet reports have said he was making an anti-government film which Panahi's son has denied.

"If the Iranian government continues to refuse to release Jafar -- if Jafar remains in jail -- then at least we need explanations," Kiarostami said. "Because I don't understand how a film can be considered to be a crime, particularly when a film has not been made."   Continued...