Iranian filmmaker Keywan Karimi has begun serving a year-long prison sentence handed down over footage authorities deemed insulting, his production company confirmed yesterday. The charges against the 30-year-old stemmed from a film he directed called “Writing on the City” that focuses on political graffiti in Iran from the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution to the contested 2009 election. He was initially sentenced to six years behind bars after being found guilty of “insulting sanctities” in October 2015.
In February, an appeals court reduced the sentence to one year but kept the requirement that Karimi endure 223 lashes as stipulated in his original sentence. Speaking to The Associated Press earlier this week, Karimi said he hopes to use the time behind bars to complete the script for his next film. “Be sure, I’m strong. Inside, and mentally, I’m ready,” he said. Karimi was arrested by the Revolutionary Guard and held in solitary confinement in December 2013 after a trailer for “Writing on the City” was posted on YouTube, according to Paris-based production company Les Films de l’Apres-Midi. It confirmed he began his sentence at Tehran’s Evin Prison on Wednesday.
The production company is releasing Karimi’s first feature film, “Drum,” which premiered this summer at the Venice International Film Festival. Iranian authorities could not immediately be reached for comment. Karimi is one of several artists, poets, journalists, fashion models and activists who have been arrested in a crackdown on expression led by hard-liners who oppose President Hassan Rouhani’s more moderate policies and efforts to promote greater openness with the outside world. Karimi said he is determined to remain in Iran despite the challenges. “I want to reconstruct Iran based on my dream. Maybe it’s crazy,” he said. “But I’m thinking about the future, our children’s future.”-AP