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Source: The Guardian

Apr 26, 2023

Film-maker Jafar Panahi leaves Iran for first time in 14 years as travel ban lifted

The award-winning director who was released from prison in February is rumoured to be a juror at the Cannes film festival

Jafar Panahi, the acclaimed Iranian director whose life has been dominated by clashes with his country’s government, has left Iran for the first time in 14 years.

Panahi’s wife, Tahereh Saeedi, posted a picture on Instagram on Tuesday night showing her arriving with her husband at an undisclosed airport.

In the caption, Saeedi suggested that Panahi’s travel ban had been lifted and that they were going away “for a few days”. The photograph showed the couple with several large suitcases. Some have suggested on social media that the background suggests Panahi may be in France.

Panahi, 62, is best known for films including The White Balloon, The Circle and Taxi Tehran – and for spending his career under close observation by Iran’s government.

His travel ban was first imposed in 2009, after his attendance at the funeral of a student killed in the Green Revolution. Panahi then attempted to shoot a film using the uprising as a backdrop.

The following year, he was given a six-year suspended prison sentence and 20 year ban on travel and film-making for “making propaganda against the system”.

Effectively – and sometimes literally – under house arrest, Panahi nonetheless continued with his work, resulting in films such This Is Not a Film (2011), a video diary documentary smuggled out of the country on a USB drive hidden inside a cake and then shown at the Cannes film festival.

In 2013, he won the Silver Bear at the Berlin film festival for Closed Curtain, and then the festival’s top prize in 2015 for Taxi Tehran, which was entirely shot inside cars. He also won the best screenplay award at Cannes for 2018’s 3 Faces and received much acclaim for 2022’s No Bears.

Last July, Panahi was arrested and imprisoned after going to Tehran’s prosecutor’s office to enquire after fellow dissident film-maker Mohammad Rasoulof, who had been detained a few days earlier after criticising the government.

In February, Panahi went on hunger strike and he was released on bail two days later.

Some have speculated that Panahi may attend this year’s Cannes film festival as a juror.

During Panahi’s most recent imprisonment, protests broke out across Iran after the death in September of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was in police custody for not wearing her hijab correctly.

The Guardian has contacted representatives of Panahi and the Cannes film festival for comment.

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