In a turn of events that surprises no one who has studied the oppressive measures of the Iranian regime, Jafar Panahi is not going to be allowed to travel to the Cannes Film Festival, where he has a berth in the main competition with his latest film, Three Faces.
The Iranian filmmaker was arrested by the Iranian regime in 2010 and banned from making films. He continued his work, but the regime has banned him from leaving the country and he still faces a prison sentence, although the regime has not enforced the sentence.
“The Iranian authorities will receive a letter from us and from the French authorities to see if they can authorize him to come. We would really love to welcome him,” said Thierry Frémaux, Cannes chief.
However, the Cannes President Pierre Lescure made a point to add that they were not trying to pressure the regime, trying to be “formal, but not provoking.”
The Iranian film tells the story of three Iranian actresses in a variety of life situations. This is not his first film to receive acclaim from the international community. His debut film won the Camera d’Or in Cannes in 1995. Despite the oppression of his work at home, Panahi is one of the best known Iranian filmmakers.
The ban of this filmmaker is no surprise, but just another example of the regime’s ongoing efforts to stamp out the arts within Iran. Many concerts, films, and art exhibits have been arbitrarily banned by the regime and those bans are enforced by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the military arm of the Supreme Leader.
One of the reasons that the arts have been severely limited is the potential for people to gather and exchange ideas that are contrary to the regime and its power structure.
“I’m a filmmaker. I can’t do anything else but make films. Cinema is my expression and the meaning of my life. Nothing can prevent me from making films. Because when I’m pushed into the furthest corners I connect with my inner self. And in such private spaces, despite all limitations, the necessity to create becomes even more of an urge. Cinema as an Art becomes my main preoccupation. That is the reason why I have to continue making films under any circumstances to pay my respects and feel alive,” Panahi had previously said.
In order to get his films out of the country, unique measures have been taken, including smuggling a film on a USB drive out of Iran in a cake. That film was shown at the festival in 2011.