Jafar Panahi was among the 276 people invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on June 28. The award-winning director of such films as The White Balloon, The Circle, This Is Not A Film and the recent Closed Curtain, faces a 20-year ban on making movies and leaving Iran for “acting against national security and propaganda against the regime.” And yet, his films continue to sneak into international festivals: This Is Not A Film was smuggled into Cannes on a flash drive hidden inside a cake and Closed Curtain was in Berlin this year. He appeared via Skype at the recent Karlovy Vary Film Festival and Michael Moore this week posted Panahi’s statement on his invitation to the Academy:
“I would like to sincerely thank the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for inviting me to join their organization. I am especially grateful to Michael Moore and the documentary branch for nominating me.
“It’s an honor for me to join such a prestigious organization, and I am proud to accept the invitation on behalf of the large family of the Iranian filmmakers, who have steadfastly represented the best of Iranian arts and culture despite all the limitations they have been subjected to.
“I understand this membership affords me the chance to see some of the best films every year and vote on their merits. For someone in my situation who has been banned from making films, viewing the works of international colleagues is an opportunity that I would deeply cherish. If I am forbidden from making films for twenty years, I can at least share the joys of filmmaking in a vicarious manner.”