CANNES, May 14 — Film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who has secretly fled Iran for an undisclosed location in Europe, today urged the world film community to provide “strong support” to his colleagues.

Rasoulof, who was sentenced to jail on national security charges, and whose latest movie is due to compete at this month’s Cannes film festival, said he fears for the “safety and well-being” of fellow filmmakers still in Iran.

“The global film community must provide strong support to the makers of these films,” Rasoulof said in a statement to AFP.

Rasoulof announced yesterday he had escaped clandestinely from Iran, just days after it emerged he had been sentenced to eight years in prison for “collusion against national security”.

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Rasoulof had been under pressure from Iranian authorities to withdraw his latest film, The Seed of the Sacred Fig, from Cannes, where it will compete for the prestigious event’s top prize, the Palme d’Or.

Cannes director Thierry Fremaux said the festival was working with the French foreign ministry in the hope of ensuring Rasoulof, 51, can attend his premiere next week.

Rasoulof’s statement said he did not yet know if he can attend the premiere.

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“I arrived in Europe a few days ago after a long and complicated journey,” said Rasoulof, a prominent voice in Iranian cinema, who won the Berlin film festival’s Golden Bear in 2020 for There Is No Evil.

He said his latest movie set out to portray a version of Iran “that is far from the narrative dominated by censorship in the Islamic Republic and is closer to reality”.

After he and his filmmaking colleagues came under pressure from the authorities, Rasoulof learnt that his “unfair” eight-year sentence would be enforced imminently and felt he had no choice but to flee.

“I had to choose between prison and leaving Iran,” he wrote. “With a heavy heart, I chose exile”.

While some colleagues involved in the film were also able to leave the country, others remain there.

“My thoughts go to every single one of them and I fear for their safety and well-being”, Rasoulof said. — AFP