« | Home | »

The Imprisonment of Jafar Panahi

Tags: | |

It’s one of those ironies of history: a by-product of the clerical revolution in Iran was the emergence of a new wave of Iranian cinema. Kiarostami became the most celebrated auteur in the west, but he was part of a much larger creative and critical community. They view each other’s work at rough-cut stage, they comment on scripts, they suggest actors: there is a strong sense of solidarity. The cinematic language is varied, the interior destiny of each filmmaker is different, but even the self-contained Makhmalbaf family benefits from being part of a larger group. Watching their work one can see the influences that stretch from Rossellini, Fellini and Godard to Kurosawa, Ray and Hou Hsia-hsien.

I’ve always regarded one of this group, Jafar Panahi, as the country’s most fearless filmmaker. The Circle revolved round the oppression of women and the religious police. Offside revealed the Iranian passion for football and the absurdity of denying women the right to watch it in the stadium (Panahi’s daughter is a football fanatic). Crimson Gold is a neo-realist masterpiece, where fragments of reality are combined to reveal an astonishing mosaic: the raw greed of the moneyed elite. The class structure in Iran is rarely mentioned and Panahi’s film (scripted by Kiarostami) was popular inside the country and DVDs circulate even in the villages.

Over two weeks ago, Iranian security forces raided his house and arrested him together with his wife and daughter. The latter were released after 48 hours, but Panahi is still in prison. The state prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Daulatbadi, has insisted that it is ‘not a politically motivated arrest’. What else could it be? A new form of cinema criticism? It’s obvious that the regime was angered by Panahi’s public support for the students during the upheavals that followed the rigged elections of 2009. It may also be that he was preparing a new film on the subject and the authorities have carried out a pre-emptive strike. Whatever the reasoning, it is unacceptable. Panahi needs the support of writers, filmmakers and artistic communities everywhere.

Those who wish to sign the appeal for Panahi should contact a.r.khatami@gmail.com

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • andymartinink on Reacher v. Parker: Slayground definitely next on my agenda. But to be fair to Lee Child, as per the Forbes analysis, there is clearly a massive collective reader-writer ...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: And in Breakout, Parker, in prison, teams up with a black guy to escape; another white con dislikes it but accepts the necessity; Parker is absolutely...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: Parker may not have the integrity and honesty of Marlowe, but I'd argue that Richard Stark writes with far more of both than Raymond Chandler does: Ch...
    • Christopher Tayler on Reacher v. Parker: Good to see someone holding up standards. The explanation is that I had thoughts - or words - left over from writing about Lee Child. (For Chandler se...
    • Geoff Roberts on Reacher v. Parker: ..."praised in the London Review of Books" Just read the article on Lee Child in a certain literary review and was surprised to find this rave notice...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement