The Seed Of The Sacred Fig

Source: Cannes

‘The Seed Of The Sacred Fig’

Neon has secured North American rights from Films Boutique to Mohammad Rasoulof’s The Seed Of The Sacred Fig, ahead of its world premiere in Competition at Cannes on May 24.

Neon is planning a North American theatrical release in 2024.

The story centres on an investigating judge in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, who grapples mistrust and paranoia as nationwide political protests intensify, leading to suspicion of his own family. The cast includes Setareh Abdolmaleki, Zahra Rostami, Amineh Mazroei Arani and Niousha Akhshi Vardoogh.

Production companies are Germany’s Run Way Pictures and France’s Parallel45. Films Boutique is handling worldwide sales rights to the film, with Pyramide Films set to distribute in France this autumn.

It marks the latest from Iranian auteur Rasoulof, who fled Iran last week after receiving a sentence of eight years in prison and a flogging from the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Court for making public statements, films and documentaries that it considers “examples of collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the country’s security”.

The cast and crew were also interrogated by Iranian authorities, banned from leaving the country, and pressured to convince Rasoulof to withdraw the film from the festival line-up.

His whereabouts are unknown and an appearance in Cannes to present his film has yet to be confirmed. Rasoulof issued a statement on Monday calling for support.

It continues an acquisitions spree for Neon at this year’s Cannes, having pre-bought US rights to Stephen King adaptation The Monkey, directed by Osgood Perkins; North American rights to Arthur Harari’s upcoming French feature The Unknown (L’Inconnue) starring Léa Seydoux; and North American rights to Julia Ducournau’s Alpha, reuniting with the 2021 Palme d’Or-winning director of Titane. It also has worldwide rights to Osgood Perkins’ Keeper, starring Tatiana Maslany and Rossif Sutherland.

Censorship challenges 

Rasoulof has faced censorship challenges in Iran for nearly 20 years and previously served prison time for the critical eye that his films cast on the consequences of life under authoritarian rule.

He is also no stranger to Cannes, winning best director in Un Certain Regard with Goodbye in 2011; the Fipresci Prize for Manuscripts Don’t Burn in 2013; and scooped the top prize in Un Certain Regard with A Man Of Integrity in 2017. However, after attending Telluride in the US with the latter film in September 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 the Berlinale in February 2020, where his film There Is No Evil won the Golden Bear, and the following month 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.