Filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, who clandestinely fled Iran for an undisclosed location in Europe, implored world cinema on Tuesday May 14 to provide “strong support” to threatened directors, in a press release sent to Agence France- Press (AFP).

The director, sentenced to eight years in prison, five of which apply in his country according to his lawyer, says he “fears for the safety and well-being” of the teams remaining in Iran for his latest film, The Seeds of the Wild Fig Tree.

His film is in the running for the Palme d’Or, but he does not yet know if he himself will be able to make it to the Cannes Film Festival. “I arrived in Europe a few days ago after a long and complicated journey,” testifies in the press release this great voice of Iranian cinema, winner of a Golden Bear in Berlin in 2020 for The Devil Does Not Exist.

The 51-year-old filmmaker, who wants to represent an Iran “far from the narrative dominated by censorship [and] closer to reality,” explains that he decided to leave when he learned that his “unjust” prison sentence, confirmed in appeal, would be implemented “as quickly as possible”.

He feared additional condemnation after the presentation of his next film. “I had to choose between prison and leaving Iran. With a heavy heart, I chose exile,” he recounts. His passport having been confiscated since 2017, he had to “leave Iran secretly”.

“Violation of human rights”

The director is alarmed by the situation of his teams remaining in Iran, in a country where “the scale and intensity of the repression have reached a degree of brutality such that people expect to learn of a new crime every day heinous acts committed by the government.” “The criminal machine of the Islamic Republic continually and systematically violates human rights,” he denounces.

To protect himself and those close to him from regime reprisals, the director kept “the identities of the cast and crew, as well as details of the plot and script,” secret. Actors “managed to leave Iran” in time, rejoices Mohammad Rasoulof, but many other members of the team are still there “and the intelligence services are putting pressure on them”, notably through “long interrogations”. .

“The global film community must provide strong support to directors,” he implores. Freedom of expression must be defended loud and clear (…). As I know from personal experience, this support can be invaluable to them in continuing their vital work. »