Famed Iranian director sentenced to prison over Cannes Film Festival screening

Martin Scorsese has lent his support to an Iranian director who has been jailed for screening a film at the Cannes Film Festival without government permission.

Saeed Roustaee, who premiered Leila’s Brothers at the French festival in 2022, was reportedly sentenced to six months in prison by an Iranian court.

Festival organisers said it was “a serious violation of free speech”.

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

According to Iranian media, the pair were convicted of “contributing to the propaganda of the opposition against the Islamic system”.

The film is about economic issues faced by a family in Tehran. It had already been banned in Iran after it “broke the rules by being entered at international film festivals without authorisation” and the director refused to “correct” it as requested by the culture ministry, the AFP news agency reported.

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.

Roustayi, 34, has gained international renown since his 2019 film Law of Tehran (AKA Just 6.5), an uncompromising look at Iran’s drug problem and the brutal, and fruitless, police response.

In 2022, award-winning film-maker Jafar Panahi was sentenced to six years in jail after inquiring about the detention of fellow directors Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad, and was released on bail in February after going on hunger strike.

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