The International Coalition for Filmmakers in Danger (ICFR) “remains extremely disturbed” following the arrest of two documentary filmmakers in Iran, who were later released on bail and banned from leaving the country for six months.
Mina Keshavarz and Firouzeh Khosrovani were arrested in Tehran on May 10, after their homes were searched and their personal and professional effects such as mobile phones, hard drives and laptops confiscated.
Keshavarz and Khosrovani were released on bail on May 17 and banned from leaving the country for six months. There have been no formal charges since their arrest.
Khosrovani’s 2020 documentary X-ray of a family won Best Feature at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).
Keshavarz’s filmography includes Profession: Documentary maker, about seven directors, Brave the waves and the premiere of Sheffield Doc Fest The art of living in danger.
ICFR was founded in 2019 by the European Film Academy (EFA), the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) to support filmmakers facing persecution. The body released a statement saying it continues to be “extremely disturbed by the continued reports of arrests of filmmakers in Iran and demands an end to the growing environment of fear and insecurity in which filmmakers live and working”.
“Placing these world-class filmmakers in a suspended state of ‘bail’ prevents them from traveling, working or contributing to both international and Iranian cultural life,” said ICFR President Orwa Nyrabia. “This is already a drastic measure aimed at artists whose work shows the most loving and respectful image of Iranian art and culture to the world, an image that breaks down the barriers of stereotypes and prejudices.
“Such measures are dangerous, and such artists deserve to be cherished, not persecuted. Moreover, they are not alone. Filmmakers around the world will stand with them and protect their freedom and safety. »
The ICFR said it will continue to monitor the situation of the filmmakers and the arrests of any other filmmakers following the recent events.
“It is crucial to support these filmmakers at this time,” added Mike Downey, co-founder of ICFR and president of the European Film Academy. “Their release is only temporary and came after the families intervened to secure their release on bail.”
Reaction in Iran
In Iran, a group of Iranian actors and directors, including Berlinale Golden Bear winner Mohammad Rasoulof, published an open letter condemning the interrogation and arrest of filmmakers on Rasoulof’s Instagram (May 14). Rasoulof was banned from traveling abroad and sentenced to a year in prison for his work, but has yet to serve his sentence. Jafar Panahi, winner of the Golden Bear and the Golden Camera at Cannes, is also among the signatories and lives in Iran under a travel ban.
The letter called for “the freedom of all prisoners of ideas, culture and art, including documentary filmmakers”.
In a subsequent Instagram post (May 18), Rasoulof criticized “well-known personalities who preferred to protect their position rather than empathize with their colleagues” who refrained from signing the declaration. “Perhaps in the future the names of people who take credit for society but prefer their benefit and the protection of their personal position to everything should be listed separately,” he said.