Jafar Panahi

On Monday, National Public Radio featured a story on Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, whose latest film, Crimson Gold, has screened at the New York Film Festival this week. It has inspired comparisons to Panahi’s earlier accomplished and searing social critique, The Circle (2000), in part because both films were banned in his native country.

But Panahi didn’t attend NYFF this year. The last time he bothered visiting American soil, he was arrested and chained to a wooden bench at JFK airport for sixteen hours for being an Iranian citizen and refusing to be fingerprinted and photographed for US immigration. You can read his official statement, here.

Although the NPR story has the gall to claim the incident was “covered widely in the media,” I only heard about it through a couple of focused international film listservs I was active on at the time. (Not to mention, as far as I can tell this is NPR’s first coverage of the incident, nearly two years after it occured.) The broadcast manages a sound bite from NYFF director Richard PeÒa (who, incidentally, also offers a commentary on the recent DVD release of Manoel de Oliveira’s contemplative I’m Going Home):

“Here is a situation with someone who has clearly taken a courageous stand for expression, for liberty, for many things that we as Americans should support. And rather than encouraging someone like this, we punish him along with everybody else. So because of that, it really does set up the image that really what the US is against is Islam or Muslims and not particular people who hold particular political positions. So to reject an Abbas Kiarostami or to reject a Jafar Panahi, even if one says, well they’re not rejected, they just have to go through a laborious process of three months of investigation and then fingerprinting, is really, I believe, cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

Well said, Mr. PeÒa. Those with Real Audio can listen to the segment, here.