Iranian director and Berlinale winner Mohammad Rasoulof and his colleague Mostafa Aleahmad were arrested on Friday. They are accused by the judicial authorities of “creating unrest and disturbing the psychological security of society”, as the state news agency IRNA writes. There is also talk of cooperation with opponents of the regime. Rasoulof and Aleahmad are said to have been arrested at their homes, producers Kaveh Farnam and Farzad Pak said via Twitter. On Saturday, Rasoulof’s lawyers confirmed that their client is being held in solitary confinement at the notorious Evin Prison.
Rasoulof and Aleahmad are among more than 70 Iranian filmmakers taking to social media after the collapse of the Metropol Tower, a ten-storey commercial building in the city of Abadan in Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan province on May 23, killing over 40 people an appeal under the hashtag
Rasoulof, 49, won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale two years ago with Farnam and Pak-produced There Is No Evil. The film deals with the death penalty and conscription in Iran and, in four episodes, asks questions about the possibilities of personal freedom and human rights under the conditions of political bondage. His daughter Baran Rasoulof, who plays in the film, accepted the award in 2020.
Rasoulof has been subjected to reprisals for many years and, like the internationally acclaimed director Jafar Panahi, is repeatedly confronted with the arbitrariness of the Iranian authorities. After an initial conviction in 2010 – parallel to that of Panahi – Rasoulof was sentenced again in Tehran in 2019 to one year in prison and two years of a professional and travel ban after his film “A Man of Integrity” was named best film in the Un Certain series in Cannes Regard had been awarded.
When he returned to Iran, the authorities withheld his passport at the time. Since then, however, he has not had to serve his sentence. A second case is attached to him for his work – despite his professional ban – on the investigative documentary “Intentional Crime” on the death of the Iranian poet and author Baktash Abtin. The protest note under the hashtag
With the arrest of Rasoulof, the situation of artists in Iran has become even more difficult. In February 2021, the director said in an interview with the Tagesspiegel that “the number of naysayers is increasing, it can be felt everywhere, in everyday life, in conversations with friends, on the street, on the Internet”. “The repression increases, which in turn strengthens the resistance. Saying no brings great difficulties, but it also has great beauty.”
In a first statement from the festival, the management duo of the Berlinale, Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, called on the Iranian authorities to release the two directors “immediately”. “We are concerned about the arrests of Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad. It is shocking that artists are imprisoned for their peaceful efforts against violence.” Rasoulof took part in the 2021 Berlinale as a jury member, but he had to be connected from Iran.