Along with Abbas Kiarosatmi and Asghar Farhadi, Jafar Panahi is one of Iran’s most celebrated filmmakers. He’s also perhaps the most decorated, having won the top awards at the Venice Film Festival for The Circle and the Berlin Film Festival for Taxi. Panahi is a favorite at Cannes, where he took home the Camera d’Or for his debut The White Balloon, and the Un Certain Regard jury award for Crimson Gold. He has accomplished all this despite having had more run-ins with Iran’s Islamic government than any other artist working today. In 2009, his incarceration while shooting a film about Iran’s street protests provoked an international uproar, forcing the government to release him after three months. Although an Islamic court subsequently sought to punish him with a six-year jail sentence and a 20-year ban from filmmaking, Panahi has courageously defied the ban and surreptitiously continued to make films. The following is a conversation between Jafar Panahi and the film scholar Jamsheed Akrami on free expression, or the lack thereof, in Iranian cinema over the past 50 years. Akrami is a professor of film at William Paterson University and the director of a trilogy of documentaries on Iranian film: The Lost Cinema, on Iranian cinema before the revolution, Friendly Persuasion, on Iranian cinema after the revolution, and A Cinema of Discontent, on film censorship in Iran, all of which are available through the distribution company Kino Lorber.
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* * *[Images by Sam W. Jackson]
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