Iranian director and Berlinale winner Mohammad Rasoulof and his colleague Mostafa Aleahmad were arrested on Friday, according to media reports, on charges of “inciting unrest,” according to a statement from their film producers.
After the collapse of a high-rise building in Abadan on May 23, Rasoulof and Aleahmad “created unrest and disturbed the psychological security of society,” the state news agency Irna wrote, citing the Iranian judicial authorities. The authorities have also accused them of collaborating with opponents of the regime.
Rasoulof and his colleague were reportedly arrested at their homes, Kaveh Farnam and Farzad Pak, producers of Rasoulof’s Gold Bear-winning 2020 film There Is No Evil, said in a tweet. The current whereabouts of the two are unknown. The producers ask the film world for support for the imprisoned directors.
The background: When the high-rise building under construction collapsed in Abadan, a city 660 kilometers south-west of Tehran, more than 40 people died. After that there were protests and demonstrations against the authorities, because of mismanagement and corruption. The protests were violently suppressed, according to a Washington Post report, batons and tear gas were used.
More than 70 Iranian filmmakers and other filmmakers then published an appeal on social media under the hashtag
The 49-year-old Rasoulof addressed the death penalty and conscription in Iran in his Berlinale-winning film “There is no Evil”, the Golden Bear, and in four episodes asked questions about the possibilities of personal freedom and human rights under the conditions of political bondage. His daughter Baran Rasoulof, who starred in the film, accepted the award in 2020 along with the producers.
“The number of naysayers is increasing, it can be felt everywhere, in everyday life, in conversations with friends, on the street, on the Internet,” he said in an interview with the Tagesspiegel in February 2021. As a result, repression increases, which in turn strengthens resistance. “Saying no brings with it great difficulty, but there is also great beauty in it.
Rasoulof has been subjected to reprisals for many years and, like his internationally acclaimed Jafar Panahi, is repeatedly confronted with the arbitrariness of the 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.
He has not yet had to start this prison sentence: Although he was asked to go to prison in June 2020, when he did so, he was sent home with reference to the corona risk in the Iranian prisons. Another case against him was opened.