Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof sentenced to eight years in prison and flogging [Updated]

Mohammad Rasoulof. Photo: Pediakar. Wikicommons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, whose feature film The Seed of the Sacred Fig is due to premiere at the the 77th Cannes Film Festival this month, has been sentenced to eight years in prison, flogging, a fine and the confiscation of property, his lawyer Babak Paknia has confirmed on X

‘The main reason for issuing this sentence is signing statements and making films and documentaries,’ Paknia writes, ‘which, according to the court, are examples of collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the country’s security.’

Since The Seed of the Sacred Fig’s inclusion at Cannes was announced last month, the director has been told by Iranian authorities to pull the film from competition. All key members in the crew have also been banned from leaving the country and placed under investigation by the security forces of the Ministry of Intelligence.

‘He is accused of making [The Seed of the Sacred Fig] without obtaining a license from the related authorities,’ Paknia tells the Guardian. ‘Alongside accusations that the actresses were not applying hijab properly and were filmed without hijab.’

As Rasoulof’s tenth feature film, The Seed of the Sacred Fig is not the first time the director has faced censorship and incarceration for his filmmaking and activism. Most recently, Rasoulof served jail time in Tehran from July 2022 to February 2023 for criticising the repression of civil protestors in Iran on social media. In 2017, he was sentenced to one year in prison and a two-year ban on leaving the country due to filming and public screening of A Man of Integrity, which tells the story of corruption in Iran and won the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes the same year.

14 May: Mohammad Rasoulof says in a press statement that he has fled his home country to Europe, CNN reports.

In an Instagram post made on Monday, Rasoulof posted a video that showed him crossing the country’s border and criticising the Iranian government as a tyrannical and oppressive regime.

‘If geographical Iran suffers beneath the boots of your religious tyranny, cultural Iran is alive in the common minds of millions of Iranians who were forced to leave Iran due to your brutality and no power can impose its will on it,’ says the director. ‘From today, I am a resident of cultural Iran.’

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