Escaped Iranian director receives ovation at Cannes

Published : 25 May 2024 10:06 PM

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

He received raucous standing ovations before and after the gala screening of ‘The Seed of the Sacred Fig’, which is competing for the top prize Palme d'Or.

"I hope the entire apparatus of oppression and dictatorship will disappear from Iran," he told the packed Cannes theatre, where he brandished photos of the movie's actors.

Made underground in Iran on a tiny budget, it 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.

Friday was the last day of the Cannes Film Festival screenings, with the winners from the 22 entries to be announced today, Saturday by a jury led by ‘Barbie’ director Greta Gerwig.

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

He attended the premiere on Friday alongside his daughter and Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani, who lives in exile in France.

Speaking after the premiere, Rasoulof said he was thinking of "everyone who allowed this film to be made those who are here, and those who were prevented from coming."

An outspoken critic of Iran's rulers, Rasoulof had already served two prison terms over his uncompromising political films and had his passport revoked in 2017.

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.