Ambassador of the Arts or Prisoner of Conscience?

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Change for Equality: Jafar Panahi is a well known filmmaker famous for films such as the White Baloon, the Circle, and Crimson Gold. In recent years he has received international recognition and international awards for his film Offside, including at Film Festivals in Venice, Montreal and Berlin. All his awards are being housed voluntarily at the Tehran Cinema Museum. But this renowned filmmaker has been in prison for over a month now and during this time he has only been allowed one visit with his family and several short telephone calls.

Jafar Panahi is a filmmaker who has consistently paid attention to social issues in his country and he has been a supporter of many social causes, including the One Million Signatures Campaign. For this reason, a number of activists in the One Million Signatures Campaign paid a visit to his family on the occasion of the New Year with the aim of expressing their concern for Panahi as well as their solidarity with this imprisoned artist.

In this visit, Panahi’s wife, Tahereh Saeedi, explained that Panhani was in good spirits despite having been detained for over a month. Tahereh further explained that while Panahi had been on the verge of illegal treatment and pressures [by authorities] he had never acted illegally himself. Ms. Taheri explained further that Panahi’s continued detention and the refusal of authorities to be accountable and responsive regarding his detention and his situation are examples of illegal actions by security officials. Panahi’s wife further expressed that she believes that Jafar Panahi had consistently been sensitive to social issues within the context of his films and all his films are testament to this commitment. Stillshe wondered whether “attention to social issues in the area of the arts constituted a crime?”

In an interview that Jafar Panahi conducted with the site of Change for Equality about his film Offside, Panahi classified himself as a filmmaker focused on addressing discrimination and identified women as one of the main groups experiencing discrimination in Iran. About the film Offside, which addresses the ban placed on women from entering sports stadiums, Panahi had the following to say: “this film only addresses a small portion of the discrimination faced by women in my country.”
More than a month has passed since the arrest of this Iranian filmmaker and Jafar Panahi’s Awards remain in Tehran Cinema Museum, for the public’s viewing. Is Panahi an Iranian Ambassador of the Arts or one condemned to remain in solitary confinement in Section 209 of Evin prison?

Read the interview with Jafar Panahi; Paying a Price in a Social Movement is Inevitable


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