Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, jailed in 2010 for anti-regime propaganda, told the Cannes Film Festival on Friday he knew his latest picture would also come under fire in his own country.
Rasoulof reportedly filmed his censorship drama “Manuscripts Don’t Burn” secretly in Iran following a ban, and the circumstances of his visit to Cannes and where he now lives remain strictly confidential.
Rasoulof’s wife in 2011 accepted his best director award in the new talent section, Un Certain Regard, for his film “Goodbye” about a young Tehran lawyer trying to get a visa to leave Iran.
At the time, he was unable to travel as he was on bail in Iran pending an appeal against a six-year jail sentence.
Rasoulof was arrested with fellow director Jafar Panahi after they tried to make a documentary on the unrest that followed the disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rasoulof was jailed in 2010 for six years for acting against national security and propaganda against the regime and banned from making films for 20 years. The sentence was reduced to one year on appeal.
This year Rasoulof was able to appear in person to introduce his new film although he said the occasion was tinged with sadness because of the friends who could not be there with him.
“I’m a little sad because there are a lot of people who cannot be here. It is because of the Iranian situation they couldn’t come,” he told the audience before a screening of his film in the same section.
Rasoulof said he fully expected criticism of the film because Iranian journalists at the festival might feel they had to write articles about it that would not anger the regime.
“I don’t care and I excuse them,” he said.
Iran has in the past accused festival organisers of being political for screening movies by Iranians who backed the Islamic republic’s opposition movement, including Panahi.
The secrecy surrounding Rasoulof’s appearance follows another high-profile case in 2011 when actress Marzieh Vafamehr was sentenced to a year in jail and 90 lashes for her role in a film about the limits imposed on artists in Iran.
The actress was arrested after appearing in “My Tehran for Sale,” which came under harsh criticism in conservative circles.
The film, an Australian co-production, told the story of a young actress in Tehran whose theatre work was banned by the authorities, forcing her to lead a secret life in order to express herself artistically.