• News
  • May 13, 2024

Iranian Authorities Sentence Acclaimed Filmmaker to Prison for “Propaganda”

Portrait of MOHAMMAD RASOULOF. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Award-winning Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, whose new film is to premiere at the 77th Cannes Film Festival this May, has been sentenced to eight years in prison, as well as flogging, a fine, and the confiscation of property, his lawyers revealed on May 8. 

Since announcing his participation, Rasoulof has faced pressure from the authorities to pull his latest work, The Seed of the Sacred Fig (2024), from Cannes. His lawyer Babak Paknia stated on X that the reason for the director’s arrest was due to his persistence in making films and documentaries that “are examples of collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the country’s security.” 

State authorities further alleged that Rasoulof’s film was made “without obtaining a license from the related authorities,” and featured actresses not wearing a “hijab properly . . . [or] without hijab,” Paknia told British newspaper The Guardian. Security forces from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence have been investigating all key members of the film crew, who have also been banned from leaving the country. 

Throughout his career Rasoulof has been subject to numerous arrests; the latest being the harshest sentence to date. His previous films, which include A Man of Integrity (2017) and There Is No Evil (2020), prompted arrests for their unabashed activism and exposition of various social issues in Iran. Both films received the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes and the Berlin International Film Festival’s Golden Bear prize. Despite Rasoulof’s critical acclaim, his films have been decried by the Iranian state as “propaganda against the system.”  

The news marks yet another prosecution against outspoken artists by the Iranian authorities. In April, artist and cartoonist Atena Farghadani was arrested by intelligence officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and sent to Evin Prison, where she was held in during previous periods of detention.

Camilla Alvarez-Chow is an editorial assistant at ArtAsiaPacific. 

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