Cannes Film Festival 2024: Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof sentenced to five years in prison

Cannes Film Festival 2024: Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof sentenced to five years in prison
Cannes Film Festival 2024: Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof sentenced to five years in prison

Opponent of the Tehran regime, filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof has just been sentenced for “collusion against national security”.

He received a five-year prison sentence, including flogging, a fine and confiscation of his property.

A decision which comes a few days before the 77th Cannes Film Festival, where he is due to present his new film, “The Seed of the Sacred Fig”.

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The coincidence is disturbing to say the least. A symbol of opposition to the Iranian regime, director Mohammad Rasoulof has just been sentenced to five years in prison by a court in his country for “collusion against national security“, a few days before the opening of the 77th Cannes Film Festival, where his new film must be presented in competition for the Palme d’Or.

Mohammad Rasoulof, 52, was also sentenced to lashes, a fine and the confiscation of his property, indicates his lawyer Me Babak Paknia in messages posted on the X network. The latter specifies that his client had received of eight years in prison at first instance, five of which were applicable, and that the sentence had already been confirmed on appeal.

Award-winning films that disturb

Like Jafar Panahi, this former sociology student is part of a generation of filmmakers whose work disturbs the authorities in Tehran. In 2017, he won the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes for A man of integrity, the story of a simple man who tries to fight against a private company pushing villagers to sell their goods. After being deprived of his passport because of this reward, he was sentenced to a year in prison for “propaganda against the system“.

Mohammad Rasoulof then received the Golden Bear at the Berlin festival in 2020 for The devil does not exist, a reflection on free will and the duty to disobey. Banned from leaving Iranian territory, he was unable to receive his prize. In July 2022, he would be arrested and imprisoned for supporting protests sparked after the collapse of a building that killed more than 40 people in May in southwest Iran.

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After this tragedy, a group of Iranian filmmakers he led published an open letter calling on the security forces “to lay down the weaponss” in the face of national outrage against “Corruption” And “incompetence” political leaders. Released from prison at the beginning of 2023 for medical reasons, he was going to be invited to be part of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival but he was unable to make the trip, still affected by a travel ban.

Repeat in a few days? The filmmaker was selected in competition on the Croisette with his new film The Seed of the Sacred Fig, facing renowned filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola and David Cronenberg. On April 30, his lawyer claimed that the authorities had summoned members of the team for questioning and that they had been pressured to remove the film from any international events.


Jérôme VERMELIN

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