Backers of the movement include Cannes and Locarno festivals. Other festivals including Rotterdam, Sarajevo and Thessaloniki issue statements in support of the Iranian filmmaker.
The groups starting the petition include the Festival de Cannes, la SACD, La Cinémathèque française, L’ARP, la Cinémathèque suisse, the Locarno Film Festival, Le Forum des Images, Positif, les Cahiers du Cinéma, and Citéphilo (à Lille).
In the introduction to the petition, the groups wrote: “The truth is that Jafar Panahi is innocent and his only crime is wishing to continue to freely exercise his profession as a filmmaker in Iran. Over the last few months the Iranian government has put into place against him nothing short of a machine of war in order to destroy him, while locking him up to silence him.
“Jafar Panahi is a renowned filmmaker and his films have been shown all over the world. Invited by the greatest film festivals in the world (Cannes, Venice, Berlin), he is today prevented from pursuing his work as a filmmaker. The heavy sentence inflicted upon Jafar deprives him of his freedom, while preventing him both physically and morally from carrying out his work as a filmmaker. Henceforth, he must remain silent, refrain from any and all contact with his fellow filmmakers both in Iran and anywhere else in the world.
“Through this sentence inflicted upon Jafar Panahi, it is manifestly all of Iranian cinema which is targeted.
“This sentence both revolts and scandalises us. So, let us call upon all filmmakers, actors and actresses, screenwriters and producers, all motion-picture professionals as well as every man and woman who loves freedom and for whom human rights are fundamental, to join us in demanding the lifting of this sentence.”
Other professionals around the world were also reacting to Panahi’s sentencing.
The Berlinale, which had invited Panahi to serve on its jury this year, said it “sharply condemns the harsh sentences.” Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick said: “We are very concerned and filled with indignation over the conviction of Jafar Panahi. It is shocking that a renowned director is punished so severely for his artistic work. Jafar Panahi can be sure he has our full support.”
The Association of Filmmakers of Bosnia and Herzegovina said it “has a need to react again and raise the voice of B&H filmmakers against such violation of freedom of speech and expression. Such violence and censorship is also violation of elementary human rights…With such sentence ,Iran is sending a clear message that they do not have any tolerance towards arts, and such sentence is against Iranian culture and civilization which has for centuries nurtured freedom of thought and expression and was home to numerous philosophers and artists such as Jafar Panahi.”
France’s Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand called the sentence a “pseudo-judgment” and an “unacceptable attack” on Panahi’s freedom of expression, and called for the release of the filmmaker.
Des Power, the chairman of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, said of Panahi, a former jury member of the ASPAs, “His jailing and the ban from filmmaking is a shameful abuse of freedom and a cruel way to punish one of the world’s most important film makers…Iran should be proud of the reputation of its film industry internationally. It is hard to juxtapose that reputation against the severity of the attitude of the current regime to some of its most prominent filmmakers. I believe APSA Academy members will share my disappointment and deep concern over the treatment of their colleague.”
A statement from Sarajevo Film Festival top brass read: “The Sarajevo Film Festival strongly protests against the verdict by Iranian Court, to sentence Jafar Panahi, one of the most important world film authors, to six years in prison. A film-maker Muhammad Rasoulof, also arrested in March, has received the same sentence.
Sarajevo Film Festival expresses its concerns regarding this verdict, and condemns any act of deprivation of artistic and civil freedoms, and violation of basic human rights. We are also of the opinion that this verdict by the Iranian Court caused irreparable damage, not only to Iranian but to the world cinematography, which is, by this act, deprived of the master pieces of this acclaimed film-maker.”
Panahi’s White Balloon opened the first Sarajevo Film Festival.
The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival added: “In our view, the verdict is a purely political act which seriously violates basic human rights, as well as the right of an artist to freely express ideas and the right to artistic self-realization inherent in freely perceiving the world. We are confident that the verdict will provoke the protests of the cultural public around the globe.”
And the International Film Festival Rotterdam said: “The IFFR calls on the Iranian authorities to revise the sentence and pleads for the release of Panahi and Rassoulof as well as for cancellation of the ban on making films. It is unacceptable that the work of an important, humane and committed film maker like Panahi is subject to oppression.”
Thessaloniki Film Festival Director Dimitri Eipides, added: “The conviction of Jafar Panahi and Mohammed Rasulof, as well as the ban on filmmaking, is an intolerable infringement of human rights, as well as artistic freedom. We will do anything in our power to see that this unjust sentence is reversed.”
The LA Film Critics Association issued this statement: “The members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association wish to express their sadness and outrage at the sentences handed out to filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, who were both given six-year prison terms on Monday by the Iranian government. If that were not unconscionable enough, Mr. Panahi has additionally been banned from making films, traveling abroad, or speaking with journalists for 20 years. Their crime? Daring to make a film that examined their homeland in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When governments imprison filmmakers, they hope that their brutish actions will silence these voices — and therefore silence other artists who might dare follow in their footsteps. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association deplores such actions and refuses to stay silent — and we encourage all others who support freedom in the arts to speak out as well.”