So far at this year’s Venice Film Festival, the majority of red carpet fanfare has orbited around who stood where for the Don’t Worry Darling group premiere photo and a backless red thing worn by Timotheé Chalamet. But last night, Venice jury head Julianne Moore chose to bring attention to a very different and far more pressing issue as she walked on the Palazzo Del Cinema red carpet.
Moore, who is serving as head of the Venice jury this year, joined activists from the International Coalition Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR) in a flash mob calling for the release of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi from Iranian prison. On July 12, Panahi was arrested in Tehran and slapped with a six-year prison sentence after he inquired about the arrests of fellow directors Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-e Ahmad. Panahi had sought to inquire on the conditions of Rasoulof’s detention specifically, and hopefully move towards their release.
Moore was joined in the demonstration by Venice jury member Audrey Diwan, Ginger & Rosa director Sally Potter, Orizzonti Jury President Isabel Coixet, and Venice festival head Antonio Barbera. Moore held a sign emblazoned with Panahi’s face and the call to action: “Release Jafar Panahi!” Other signs featured different yet similarly detained film professionals, including Myanmarese producer Ma Aeint and Turkish producer Çiğdem Mater.
Per Deadline, Panahi’s six-year sentence is time originally handed down to the filmmaker in 2010 that the Iranian government chose to reactivate. The sentence comes alongside a 20-year filmmaking and travel ban for Panahi, and amidst a crackdown on free expression and peaceful dissidence throughout Iran.
The protest took place ahead of a screening of Panahi’s most recent film No Bears, which is in competition at this year’s festival. Per TIFF’s description of the film, Panahi directed the project remotely, leading a crew across the border in Turkey. The film, in which Panahi also stars, follows two parallel love stories faced with looming social forces. The project also serves as a commentary on Panahi’s own inability to leave his home.