Iranian filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad were arrested in Iran on Friday for their participation in a social media campaign urging the police not to use weapons against protestors. The campaign, #put_your_gun_down, had been launched in reaction to police violence targeting peaceful protests over the collapse of a building in Abadan on 23 May that left at least 41 people dead.
The same appeal is reported to have been backed by at least 70 other Iranian film-makers and movie industry workers.
Iranian producers Kaveh Farnam and Farzad Pak, who work with Rasoulof, released a statement on Friday, condemning the Iranian authorities for their‘disregard for basic human rights and civil liberties and the persistent repression and pressure inflicted on committed and independent Iranian filmmakers.’
We are horrified by this news and strongly condemn the Iranian authorities for their arrest of our friend and colleague Mohammad Rasoulof (There Is No Evil, Manuscripts Don't Burn) and fellow filmmaker Mostafa Al-Ahmad. pic.twitter.com/KgHzQ0zOZ4
— Kino Lorber (@KinoLorber) July 8, 2022
They demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Rasoulof and Ahmad.
The International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk published a statement on Saturday, calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the two filmmakers, and encouraging all film and culture institutions across the world to campaign for their release.
The organisers of the Berlin International Film Festival also released a statement protesting against the arrests.
“It’s shocking that artists are taken into custody because of their peaceful endeavours against violence,” said the Berlinale directors, Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian.
Mohammad Rasoulof’s ‘There Is No Evil’ won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2020.
Shortly after receiving the award he was sentenced to a year in prison in Iran for ‘propaganda against the system’, and was held in custody for some time. He was also banned from making films and travelling abroad.
Previously, his passport was confiscated on return to Iran from Telluride Film Festival in Colorado in 2017 and he was ordered to appear at a ‘culture and media court’ in Tehran.
He was arrested along with fellow director Jafar Panahi, for filming without a permit in 2011, the year his film ‘Goodbye’ won a prize at Cannes.
Rasoulof and Panahi were sentenced to six years in prison and banned from making films for 20 years, also for ‘making propaganda’, before the sentence was reduced to a year on appeal.