It is difficult to watch Mohammad Rasoulof's latest film A Man of Integrity and not see it as a scathing commentary on Iranian society, its bureaucracy and lack of nuances when it comes to human rights. But it still came as a surprise when Rasoulof was arrested on Friday for recent social media posts that were critical of the Iranian government. Fellow filmmaker Mostafa Al-Ahmad was also arrested and both are being held in an unknown location.
Rasoulof is not foreign to controversy. In 2017 he moved back to Iran and the government has been after him ever since, banning him from making films and even traveling out of the country to promote his work. He was charged with “propaganda against the system” for his films.
The Associated Press reported: "According to IRNA, award-wining filmmaker Mohamad Rasoulof and colleague Mostafa Al-Ahmad were taken into custody for posting a statement on social media urging members of the Iranian security forces to lay down their weapons."
In response Kaveh Farnam and Farzad Pak, two of Rasoulof’s Iranian producers, released a statement via distributor Kino Lorber on Twitter, which condemned the arrest.
Berlinale also issued a statement denouncing the arrest, which we print in full below.
"The Berlin International Film Festival was dismayed to learn of the imprisonment of the renowned Iranian directors Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad. Rasoulof's film There Is No Evil was awarded the “Golden Bear” for Best Film at the Berlinale in 2020. In his films, Mohammad Rasoulof focuses on the social situation in his home country. Both directors are currently accused of having prepared a public call to action against violence."
“We are deeply concerned about the arrest of Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad. It's shocking that artists are taken into custody because of their peaceful endeavors against violence”, say the Berlinale directors, Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian.
"The Berlinale is fundamentally committed to freedom of expression and freedom of the arts. The festival therefore protests against the imprisonment of the two directors."
Photo provided by Berlinale, used with permission.