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Cannes Festival denounces Iran director’s jailing

Organizers of the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday denounced “a serious violation of free speech” after Iranian director Saeed Roustaee was sentenced to prison for showing a film at the competition. An Iranian court sentenced Roustaee, 34, to six months’ prison for the screening of his film “Leila’s Brothers” at the Cannes festival in 2022, local media reported on Tuesday.

The film, which recounts the economic struggles of a family in Tehran, has been banned in Iran since its release last year. Roustaee’s sentencing, which includes a ban on working for five years. “constitutes once again a serious violation of free speech for Iranian artists, film-makers, producers and technicians,” Cannes organisers said in a statement to AFP. “The Cannes Festival expresses its support to all those who suffer violence and reprisals for creating and distributing their works. The Festival is their home,” it said.

“Leila’s Brothers” was in competition for the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes festival. It missed the top prize but won the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) award. It was banned after it “broke the rules by being entered at international film festivals without authorization,” and the director refused to “correct” it as requested by the culture ministry, official media said at the time. On Tuesday, the reformist daily Etemad said that Roustaee, along with the movie’s producer Javad Noruzbegi, “were sentenced to six months in prison for screening the movie at Cannes Film Festival”.

Roustaee and Noruzbegi were found guilty of “contributing to propaganda of the opposition against the Islamic system.” The film-makers will only serve one-twentieth of their sentence, about nine days, while the remainder “will be suspended over five years,” according to Etemad, which added the verdict can be appealed. During the suspension period, the defendants will be required to take a film-making course while “preserving national and ethical interests” and refrain from associating with other cinema professionals, the newspaper said.—AFP

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