Art May 7, 2010 By John Dickie

jafar panahi JAFAR PANAHIjafar title JAFAR PANAHIFor anyone not living there, it’s hard to know what on earth goes on inside Iran. For some, it’s a cradle of culture; for others, a breeding-ground for extremists. What is certain, however, is that the current Islamic regime doesn’t tolerate dissent, shuttling any and all opposition voices off to jail at will. Now, they have a high-profile convict to deal with: award-winning filmmaker Jafar Panahi. Many of Panahi’s films have been explicitly critical of the Iranian government, like his masterpiece Dayereh (The Circle) from 2000 — winner of the Golden Lion at Venice — which addresses the treatment of women under the Islamist regime. The story is about different women outcast from their families and on the run on the streets of Tehran — not exactly the image that Iran’s highly sensitive leaders want to project of their country. Before his arrest, they had even banned Panahi from travelling abroad, apparently for having worn an item of green clothing — the color of Iran’s opposition, favored by Iranians in exile — at the Montreal Film Festival. Now, an international movement demanding his release is gathering momentum. Dozens of high-profile cineastes like Spielberg, Redford, De Niro, Loach, and Kiarostami (who Panahi used to assist), as well as countless film entities and culture ministers around the world have signed a petition, bringing further international scrutiny to the regime. Panahi may not have intended it this way, but being cast as the martyr has brought massive media attention to the Iran he so desperately wants to change.

For more information and ways to help, go to the Free Jafar Pahani facebook page.