Turkish filmmaker Semih Kaplanoğlu is turning down an award from Iran’s Fajr International Film Festival to protest the Islamic Republic’s sentencing of Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulov, Iran Balkan website reports.
In addition to being sentenced to six years in prison for “propaganda against the regime,” Panahi and Rasoulov are banned from filmmaking for 20 years.
Kaplanoğlu, who won the best screenplay award for his film "Bal" (Honey), had previously voiced his objection to the sentences by signing a joint letter of protest. He also condemned Panahi’s incarceration in a public speech at Beyoğlu Cinema in Istanbul.
According to the Iran Balkan report, Kaplanoğlu explained to the media why his film ended up in the Fajr Festival in the first place: “The international distributor of my films, The Match Factory, had sold ‘Honey’ to Iran last year, just like the previous two instalments in my ‘Trilogy of Yusuf.’ In those cases, the decision whether a particular film will take part in a festival or not is made by the film’s distribution company in that country.”
Kaplanoğlu said they discovered the film was running in the festival only after they were informed about the screenplay award. He added that he has publicly stated through his distributors that he is turning down the award for “Honey.”
The 29th edition of the Fajr Film Festival, Iran’s biggest cinematic event, began on February 5. In the opening ceremony, veteran Iranian filmmaker Massoud Kimiyai and Pouran Derakhshandeh also expressed concern for Panahi and Rasouliv and urged the authorities to overturn their sentencing.
More attention was brought to their plight when the Berlin Film Festival opened yesterday. Panahi was supposed to serve on the jury, and a chair was left empty at the jury press conference to symbolize his absence.