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Rafi Pitts urges cinema world to support Panahi today

Events planned at the Berlinale and in Paris.

Iranian director Rafi Pitts arrives in Berlin today in a show of solidarity with Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, who were sentenced to six years in prison on December 20 for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic.”

Pitts said that today was the right day “for the world of cinema to unite and question the Iranian authorities, as it marks the 32nd anniversary of the Iranian revolution, the last day of the Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran and the opening [Panahi] film screening in Berlin.”

To draw attention to invited jury member Panahi’s absence, the Berlinale is showing a number of the director’s films, including Jury Grand Prix winner Offside in the Berlinale Palast at 4:30 pm today. Pitts is part of a panel discussing censorship in cinema on February 17.

In an open letter to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Pitts called for the film industry to down tools today from noon-2 pm.

Some French cinemas are expected to go dark, and Panahi supporters including Mathieu Amalric and Cédric Kahn, are expected to attend a meeting outside Paris’s Cinematheque.

Eight Iranian directors withdrew their films from Tehran’s Fajr International Film Festival (Feb 01 - 11) in protest against the incarcerations.

“We’re not criminals,” said Pitts of Iranian filmmakers. “We just want to ask questions and show the difficulties within our society. What I find ridiculous today is that asking questions has become a crime…This problem concerns the world of cinema. It’s not just Iran. Going forward let’s make sure this doesn’t happen in other countries.”

Pitts also said that he wanted to shoot his next film in Iran and would “fight” to make it happen

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