Iranian director Saeed Roustaee jailed for Cannes screening

Along with Roustaee — who directed the movie —Javad Noruzbegi, the producer were both sentenced to six months in prison by the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

Tehran: American-Italian film director Martin Scorsese comes out in support  of prominent Iranian director Saeed Roustaee who has been sentenced to six months in prison for the “unauthorised” screening of his movie ‘Leila’s Brothers’ at the Cannes Film Festival, New York Times reported citing local media.  

Along with Roustaee — who directed the movie —Javad Noruzbegi, the producer were both sentenced to six months in prison by the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran for “participating in the opposition’s propaganda against the Islamic regime,” according to the conviction announcement made by the court and reported in Etemad, an Iranian reformist newspaper.

Martin Scorsese shared a petition calling for “justice” for Roustaee and the film’s producer Javad Noruzbegi.

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“Please sign this petition to bring justice to Saeed Roustayi,” Scorsese wrote on Instagram.

“The defendants aligned with the oppositional media, under the influence of propaganda, in line with the counter-revolutionary (anti-regime) forces,” the announcement read. “With the aim of raising money and seeking fame,” it said, they “prepared fodder and intensified the media battle against the religious authority,” NYT quoted the Iranian newspaper.

Roustaee and Noruzbegi will serve about nine days of their sentence, with the remainder suspended for five years, Etemad reported.

During that period, Roustaee and Noruzbegi will be required to complete a 24-hour course about “creating movies aligned with national interests and national morality” and refrain from associating with other individuals in the film industry, NYT reported citing Etemad.

‘Leila’s Brothers’ tells the story of an Iranian family struggling to escape poverty in Tehran. The movie was screened at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it won top honours from the International Federation of Film Critics.

According to NYT, Roustaee did not have permission from Iran’s Ministry of Culture to screen the film, and he alleged that the ministry wanted him to censor some of the movie’s “most important scenes”.

“Roustaee’s sentence has concerned many in the Iranian cinema community,” said an Iranian filmmaker who was granted anonymity because he said he was concerned about his safety. “We believe that this indicates that a new wave of limitations and restrictions has emerged.”

The Iranian government is extra sensitive to criticism and dissent because of the upcoming one-year anniversary of widespread anti-government protests that erupted last September, Ray Takeyh, the Hasib J Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“The regime is watchful of what is happening and is determined to control the discourse that is taking place,” NYT quoted Takeyh as saying.

Meanwhile, several prominent figures in Iran’s film industry have been imprisoned in recent years after running afoul of government authorities.

In 2022, the award-winning filmmaker Jafar Panahi was also ordered to serve a six-year prison sentence by Iran’s judiciary; he had been sentenced in 2010, when he was arrested after supporting protests.

Taraneh Alidoosti, the lead actress in ‘Leila’s Brothers’ was arrested in December after calling on Iranians to support anti-government protests. She was released on bail only after spending two and a half weeks in detention.

(Except for the headline, the story has not been edited by Siasat staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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