The Toronto Film Critics Association has added its voice to the international groups calling for the release of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi and his fellow filmmaker, Mohammad Rasoulof, who have been in solitary confinement for the past two weeks in an Iranian jail.
“At stake is fundamental freedom of expression, an issue that is vital to anyone who cares about cinema,” said TFCA president Brian D. Johnson. “Panahi is, by any measure, a major international director whose films have shed a spotlight on the plight of the poor and especially women in Iran. Now he’s being used as an example to anyone in Iran who wants to speak out and show an honest portrait of the society’s faults.”
On March 1, 2010, Panahi was taken from his home along with his wife, daughter and 15 friends to Iran’s Evin Prison. All but Panahi and fellow filmmaker Rasoulof were released with 48 hours. Officials said Panahi was not arrested for professional or political reasons, but so far have laid no charges against him.
The 49-year-old filmmaker has been a regular visitor to the Toronto International Film Festival over the years with such titles as “The White Balloon”, “Crimson Gold”, “The Circle” and “Offside” – pictures that have shed light on the social limits of women and the poor. Panahi’s work, which combines documentary realism and poetic form, has been recognized around the world. “The Circle” won the Golden Lion, the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, in 2000; “Crimson Gold” won the Un Certain Regard jury prize at Cannes in 2003, and “Offside”, about a group of teenaged girls attempting to break the law by sneaking into a World Cup soccer match, took the runner-up prize at the 2006 Berlin festival, the Silver Bear.
Last September, Panahi was the president of the Montreal World Film Festival, where he handed out green scarves to fellow jury members to show their support for the Iranian opposition movement.
The TFCA is proud to stand alongside the Federation of European Film Directors, the European Film Academy, the Asia-Pacific Screen Awards, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival and the International Film Festival Rotterdam in calling for Panahi and Rasoulof to be released immediately and returned to their families.