Source: Film Fest Hamburg

Mohammad Rasoulof

Berlin-based Films Boutique has secured world sales rights to Mohammad Rasoulof’s The Seed Of The Sacred Fig ahead of its premiere in Competition at Cannes, and has closed a distribution deal in France.

The latest feature by the Iranian auteur, who has faced censorship challenges in Iran for nearly 20 years, has been sold to Pyramide Distribution for release in France.

The story centres on Iman, an investigating judge in the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, who grapples with mistrust and paranoia as nationwide political protests intensify and his gun mysteriously disappears. Suspecting the involvement of his wife Najmeh and his daughters Rezvan and Sana, he imposes drastic measures at home, causing tensions to rise. Step by step, social norms and the rules of family life become suspended.

The cast, who were this week banned by authorities from leaving Iran to attend Cannes, have not yet been revealed.

Producers are Rasoulof, Amin Sadraei, Mani Tilgner, Rozita Hendijanian and Jean-Christophe Simon.

It is produced by Germany’s Run Way Pictures and France’s Parallel45 in coproduction with Arte France Cinéma and with the support of Moin Filmforderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein.

Parallel45 was recently launched by Films Boutique CEO Simon and co-produced Asli Ozge’s Berlin Panorama title Faruk. Films Boutique previously handled sales for Rasoulof’s There Is No Evil, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale in 2020 and was acquired by distributors worldwide.

The Seed Of The Sacred Fig marks Rasoulof’s first time in Competition at Cannes, having previously played in Un Certain Regard with Goodbye in 2011, for which he won the directing prize; Manuscripts Don’t Burn in 2013, winning the Fipresci prize; and A Man Of Integrity in 2017, scooping the top prize in the parallel strand.

However, the critical eye that his films cast on the consequences of life under authoritarian rule have seen him face persecution from Iranian authorities and prison time.

After winning the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes in 2017, his passport was confiscated on his return to Iran. In July 2019, he was convicted by the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Iran to one year in prison and a two-year ban on leaving the country, accused of “gathering and collusion against national security and of propaganda against the system” – a verdict he appealed.

The travel ban meant he was unable to attend Berlin and collect the Golden Bear in February 2020. The following month, he was sentenced to a year in prison for producing “propaganda against the system” and was banned from making films and travelling abroad for two years.

He also served jail time in Tehran from July 2022 to February 2023 for speaking out on social media against the repression of civil protestors in Iran. When released for health reasons, a ban on leaving the country remained in place and Rasoulof was prevented from attending Cannes last year, where he had been invited to sit on the jury for the Un Certain Regard section.

It is unclear as to whether the filmmaker will attend this year’s Cannes, which runs from May 14-25. Iranian authorities who summoned and questioned actors and production crew from Rasoulof’s latest feature told them to to ask the director to withdraw the film from Cannes, according to the filmmaker’s lawyer Babak Paknia. It is possible the filmmaker is in hiding, which is why authorities have not spoken to Rasoulof himself.