Press release from the Sydney Film Festival

On December 20, 2010 award-winning Iranian director Jafar Panahi (The White Balloon, The Circle, Crimson Gold, Offside) and his colleague Mohammad Rasoulof (The White Meadows) were sentenced to six-years in jail for a charge of making films against the Iranian regime, after being arrested in March last year. They were both also banned for twenty years from writing and making films, giving interviews to the press, leaving Iran or communicating with foreign cultural organisations.

Film festivals around the world are joining their colleagues in the international film community to pressure for these sentences to be lifted.To help support this campaign, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne film festivals together with Madman Entertainment will present special fundraising screenings in March of Panahi’s delightful and pertinent film Offside (2006). All proceeds from the screenings will go towards the campaign to free these two filmmakers. Tickets $10.

Brisbane International Film Festival is also supporting the campaign and Adelaide’s screening is presented as part of Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival 2011 (24 February – 6 March).

"This is the first time the major international film festivals in Australia have united to give voice to a cause” says Clare Stewart, Festival Director of the Sydney Film Festival. “The imprisonment of Panahi and Rasoulof is not only a deep injustice, it is an affront to all those who believe in unfettered expression and the principle of artistic freedom.”

Winner of the Silver Bear at Berlin, much of Offside was shot on the run during Iran’s World Cup soccer qualifier against Bahrain in 2005. It follows an assortment of young women fans who try to get into Teharan’s Azadi stadium to see the game. Women are not allowed to go to the game because of the risk that they will be exposed to foul language. Their solution is to disguise themselves as men. Panahi captures this real-life drama on film.
Among the international filmmakers to express their solidarity with Panahi and Rasoulof and to condemn his arrest last year were Robert Redford, Terrence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, the Coen brothers, Oliver Stone and Ang Lee. On 23 December 2010 an online petition was announced, spearheaded by Paul Haggis.

Martin Scorsese released a statement of support, saying, “I was shocked and disheartened by the news of Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof’s conviction and sentencing. It’s depressing to imagine a society with so little faith in its own citizens that it feels compelled to lock up anyone with a contrary opinion. As filmmakers, we all need to stand up for Panahi and Rasoulof. We should applaud their courage and campaign aggressively for their immediate release.”

The Berlin Film Festival which kicks off February 9 is also screening a special tribute to Jafar Panahi with his films screening in four different sections of the program. The Berlin Film Festival had publically declared its invitation to Jafar Panahi to participate on its 2011 jury shortly before his sentencing.

Sydney: 2.00pm Saturday March 5, 2.00pm Dendy Opera Quays Cinema Tickets available at the door

Adelaide: 6pm Saturday March 5, Palace Nova East End Cinemas (Cinema 9) Bookings telephone: 08 8223 2161

Melbourne: 7.15pm, Sunday March 6 2011 ACMI Cinemas, Federation Square, Melbourne