French Directors Guild launches petition demanding filmmaker’s release. First signatories include Costa Gavras, Gilles Jacob, Reza Serkanian and Bertrand Blier

The French Directors Guild has launched a petition demanding the release of Iranian filmmaker and actress Mahnaz Mohammadi following her arrest by security forces at her home in Tehran on Sunday.

“No information on what charges she was arrested or where she is detained is available,” the Société des Réalisateurs de Films (SRF) said in a statement. “We demand the release of Mahnaz Mohammadi, and are denouncing the attacks made to freedom of creation and expression of Iranians filmmakers.”

Director Costa Gavras, Cannes Film Festival president Gilles Jacob and respected film critic Jean-Michel Frodon were among the first signatories of the petition.

Iranian opposition website reported on Sunday that Mohammadi had been arrested by the intelligence services of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

Mohammadi’s work includes the short documentary Woman without Shadows about the plight of mentally handicapped women incarcerated in a home.

She also collaborated with celebrated filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s on We are Half of Iran’s Population capturing the everyday lives of Iranian women and a campaign for female suffrage in the lead up to the 2009 presidential elections.

That film, containing secretly shot footage of female heroin addicts as well as school girls complaining about sex discrimination in Iran, was smuggled out of the country. 

Mohammadi is also a close friend of compatriot director Jafar Panahi who was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from making or directing films, giving interviews to Iranian or foreign media or leaving the country for 20 years in December 2010.

Kaleme reported that Mohammadi had been previously arrested and then released in 2009 alongside Panahi, while attending a ceremony to commemorate those killed during the popular protests following the contested re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Because of her political activism and her positions, Mahnaz Mohammadi has been in the crosshairs of Iranian authorities for several years. She has had her work tools (computer, cameras, etc) confiscated, as well as her passport,” the SRF statement said.

More recently, Mohammadi hit the headlines after she was refused permission to attend this year’s Cannes Film Festival for the screening of Reza Serkanian’s Marriage Ephemeral in which she was the lead actress.

In a ceremony during Cannes to award the SRF’s Carrosse d’Or prize to Panahi in his absence, director Costa Gavras also read out a short statement from Mohammadi.

“I am a woman, I am a filmmaker, two sufficient grounds to be guilty in this country. I am currently directing a new documentary about the women of my country. The struggle of woman for their identity is an essential element of their everyday life… and freedom is the word that is most missing from their daily life,” she said.