Iran director banned from travelling to Venice fest

Wed Sep 1, 2010 1:05pm EDT
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VENICE (Reuters) - Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who was released from jail earlier this year, said on Wednesday he was not allowed to leave his home country to attend the Venice film festival.

In a written statement to the festival, where his short film "The Accordion" is screening, Panahi said that he had been officially banned from making films in the past five years.

"Despite having been released, I am still not free to travel outside my country to attend film festivals," the award-winning director said.

"When a filmmaker is not allowed to make films, it is as if his mind was still imprisoned. Maybe he is not locked up in a small cell, but he keeps wandering in a much bigger jail."

Panahi, a supporter of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in last year's disputed presidential election, was released on bail in May after a week on hunger strike. He had been held for 88 days as authorities suspected him of planning to make an anti-government film.

Panahi thanked the cinema industry for its support -- particularly at this year's Cannes festival, where French actress Juliette Binoche criticized Iran for imprisoning him in her acceptance speech for the best actress award.

"In the most desperate moments of my imprisonment, during the hunger strike, I drew courage thinking of myself as a proud member of this community," he said in the statement.

"I think all the support I received came from individual people and organizations who firmly believe in cinema and in filmmakers' freedom of expression. Let's hope one day all governments in the world will come to share this idea."

Panahi won the Camera d'Or prize in Cannes for his 1995 film "White Balloon." Five years later, he took the top Golden Lion award in Venice with "The Circle."

"The Accordion," which was made before Panahi's arrest, is a nine-minute long film about two young buskers in Tehran.

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi, editing by Paul Casciato)

<p>Iranian film director Jafar Panahi smiles, following his release on bail, at his home in Tehran May 25, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer</p>