Last updated: 17 May, 2011

Convicted Iran filmmaker cleared to travel

Convicted Iranian film-maker Mohammad Rasoulof whose feature was shown at the Cannes film festival has been cleared by authorities to travel abroad, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

A court in December sentenced Rasoulof, along with prominent director Jafar Panahi, to six years in jail and barred him from making films for 20 years. The two were released on bail pending an appeal but banned from travel abroad.

But his lawyer Iman Mirza-Zadeh told ISNA news agency that he received official confirmation on Monday the ban on Rasoulof leaving Iran had been lifted.

Rasoulof’s “Be Omid e Didar” (Goodbye) is the story of a young Tehran lawyer trying to get a visa to leave Iran and was shown on May 14 in the parallel “Un Certain Regard” section of the festival.

In Cannes, a spokesman for Rasoulof, whose film has already been shown but was to be repeated at the end of the week, was expected to be at the festival later on Tuesday.

Cannes organisers have said the film was made in “semi-clandestine conditions,” but his lawyer said Rasoulof had received official permission to make the feature.

“Fortunately … culture and judiciary officials decided to remove obstacles to his departure from the country and his participation in the Cannes film festival,” Mirza-Zadeh said.

Iran has accused the Cannes film festival of being political for screening movies by Iranians who back the Islamic republic’s opposition movement, including Panahi, on whose travel ban Mirza-Zadeh had no news.

The Islamic regime has convicted Panahi of “propaganda against the system” for making a film about unrest after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.

Berlin in February, Venice in September and Cannes a year ago all invited Panahi to sit on their juries, and left a symbolic empty chair for him when he was barred from leaving Iran.

Panahi’s latest Cannes entry, “In Film Nist” (This is not a film), depicts a day in his life as he waits for a verdict in a court appeal. It has been included in the festival’s official selection and is due to be screened on May 20.

There is an appeal on the Cannes website, jointly launched by the festival along with others, calling for Panahi and Rasoulof to be allowed to remain free and to carry on making films.

Referring to Panahi and Rasoulof, it says “these sentences are shameful, intolerable and unfitting for two film makers whose only ‘crime’ is to want to make films freely in their country.”

Panahi is known for his gritty, socially critical movies such as “The Circle,” which bagged the 2000 Venice Golden Lion award; “Crimson Gold” and “Offside,” winner of the 2006 Silver Bear in Berlin.