Iranian Film Director Mohammad Rasoulof Flees Country After Jail Sentence

Iranian Film Director Mohammad Rasoulof Flees Country After Jail Sentence

By Oghale May14,2024

The celebrated Iranian film director Mohammad Rasoulof said he had fled the country, after a court sentenced him to eight years in prison for his movies.

Mr. Rasoulof — known for his award-winning film “There Is No Evil” — had been barred from leaving Iran after his work criticized life under authoritarian rule in the country. His lawyer, Babak Paknia, wrote last week on social media that a court had sentenced Mr. Rasoulof to imprisonment, whipping and a fine for movies that it called “examples of collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the country’s security.”

On Monday, Mr. Rasoulof announced his escape from Iran in an Instagram post that featured a video of snow-capped mountains and said he had reached a “safe place” after a “difficult and long journey.”

Addressing Iran’s clerical rulers, Mr. Rasoulof said he had been forced to leave “because of your oppression and barbarity,” and that he had now joined Iranians in exile who were “impatiently waiting to bury you and your machine of oppression in the depths of history.”

He did not provide details on his location or respond to a message from The New York Times.

“There Is No Evil” — which focused on executioners in Iran — won the top prize in the Berlin International Film Festival in 2020. Mr. Rasoulof, who had directed the film in secret, was not allowed to leave the country to attend that award ceremony.

Iran’s film industry is acclaimed internationally and heavily policed at home, where the authorities can ban screening and filming.

Mr. Rasoulof’s new movie, “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” is set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in France this month.

Some of the film’s producers were interrogated by the authorities and some of its actors were barred from leaving the country, Mr. Paknia said in social media posts last month.

Mr. Rasoulof told The New York Times in 2020 that early on in his career he had used allegorical stories to avoid confronting power directly, but eventually felt that was “a form of accepting the tyrannical regime.”

He went on to offer sharp critiques of Iran’s clerical rulers with his films, including “Manuscripts Don’t Burn” and “A Man of Integrity” — which won an award at Cannes in 2017.

Over the years, the Iranian authorities had charged him with propaganda against the state, confiscated his passport, arrested and prosecuted him.

In a statement released on Monday, Mr. Rasoulof said “the scope and intensity of repression has reached a point of brutality where people expect news of another heinous government crime every day.”

Leily Nikounazar contributed reporting from Brussels.



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