Iranian director Jafar Panahi's recent troubles with the authorities in his homeland would seem to have come to a devastating conclusion, with the news that he has been sentenced to six years in jail and been banned from making movies for 20.
The Guardian reports that the filmmaker's lawyer, Farideh Gheyrat, has told ISNA, the Iranian state news agency, that Panahi has been found guilty of 'colluding in gathering and making propaganda against the regime.' Confirming that the 50-year-old White Balloon director's two-decade production ban also extends to writing scripts, giving interviews and foreign travel, Gheyrat stated that she will be mounting an appeal against the conviction.
Panahi's woes extend back to summer 2009 and the period of instability that gripped his homeland following the most recent Iranian presidential election. With incumbent hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad having triumphed in that June poll over the more moderate challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi, supporters of the latter took to the streets in protest, accusing the regime of ballot-rigging. And it was after he attended a July memorial for protesters killed in clashes with the authorities that Panahi was first arrested. The director, internationally acclaimed for the likes of The Circle and Offside, was subsequently released, but prevented from leaving Iran.
After being jailed again in March of this year, Panahi embarked on a hunger strike, and his situation made headlines at the Cannes Film Festival in May (at which he had been due to serve as a juror), when Juliette Binoche was reduced to tears when informed of his plight during the press conference for Certified Copy (a movie directed by Panahi's countryman and frequent collaborator, Abbas Kiarostami). The director was soon freed, albeit on bail, and his latest short film, The Accordion, made its debut at the Venice Film Festival in September.
However the travails of Panahi clearly remained grave, with him being prohibited from travelling to Italy to present his new film in person. And while the international filmmaking community has continued to keep Panahi in its thoughts, as evinced by the public offer earlier this month for him to sit on the jury at the forthcoming Berlin Film Festival, such well-intentioned sentiments will count for little if this latest judgement does indeed result in the director spending the better part of the next decade behind bars and he effectively being forcibly retired from the world of cinema.