The hard-line Iranian government continues to be the bane of filmmakers there, and the Toronto Film Festival is speaking out. Deadline has told you how the repressive legal system gave six-year prison sentences to directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof for a murky charge of “propaganda against the state,” for publicly mourning the deaths of protesters killed following the presidential elections. Now, six filmmakers have been arrested and charged with espionage for working with the BBC. One of the directors, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, co-directed with Panahi This Is Not a Film, a documentary about Panahi’s plight that was shown during the recent festival. Here is the festival’s protest release:
TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival today expressed its deep concern in response to the recent arrest of six Iranian filmmakers by the Iranian authorities on charges of espionage. The six filmmakers are Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Katayoun Shahabi, Hadi Afarideh, Nasser Saffarian, Shahnama Bazdar and Mohsen Shahrnazdar. The detainees have been accused of collaborating with the BBC network, forbidden in Iran, and of portraying a negative image of the country in their films.
Mr. Mojtaba Mirtahmasb is the co-director of banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s latest film THIS IS NOT A FILM, which was most recently screened as part of the 36th Toronto International Film Festival.
We are extremely concerned by the arrest of these six filmmakers, whose work should be seen and their voices heard. Iran’s filmmakers, including Mirtahmasb, Shahabi, Afarideh, Saffarian, Bazdar, Shahnazdar and Jafar Panahi, have long been celebrated as representatives of a rich and vibrant culture. Their films have been shown at festivals all over the world, including here in Toronto. Filmmakers must be allowed to express themselves through their films, without fear of reprisal.