Escaped Iranian director presents latest film at Cannes

AFP , Friday 24 May 2024

It is one of the most dramatic storylines ever delivered at Cannes: Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof walks the red carpet Friday after fleeing a prison sentence just days before the film festival.

Rasoulof s
Iranian director Rasoulof s The Seed of the Sacred Fig debuts Friday. AFP


"I can't believe I'm standing here," AFP journalists heard Rasoulof telling officials as he arrived at the Palais des Festivals on the French Cote d'Azur.

Having made a hair-raising escape from Iran on the eve of the Cannes Film Festival, he will present the premiere of his latest film, "The Seed of the Sacred Fig", which is competing for the top Palme d'Or prize on Friday.

It is the last day of festival screenings, with the winners from the 22 entries to be announced on Saturday by a jury led by "Barbie" director Greta Gerwig.

Rasoulof's film, made underground in Iran on a tiny budget, tells the story of a court prosecutor, whose family life is torn apart by the "Women, Life, Freedom" protests that convulsed the country in 2022-23.

An outspoken critic of Iran's rulers, the award-winning filmmaker has already served two prison terms over his previous, highly political films and had his passport revoked in 2017.

Rasoulof came under pressure to withdraw his latest film from Cannes, but he already knew during the production that he faced a new eight-year prison sentence for "collusion against national security", and had hatched a plan to escape.

It took 28 days on the road, moving between border villages, to get out of the country, he told Deadline magazine.

"The good thing about going to prison in Iran is that you meet all kinds of youthful people who can help you in such conditions," he told the magazine.

Festival director Thierry Fremaux said he shared the joy of "all festival-goers and all freedom-loving Iranians" over Rasoulof's arrival.

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