Dissident Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof flees to Europe ahead of Cannes premiere

Iranian film director Mohammad Rasoulof said Monday he had left Iran after being sentenced to jail on national security charges, a day ahead of the opening of the Cannes Film Festival where his new film is in the main competition.

"I am grateful to my friends, acquaintances, and people who kindly, selflessly, and sometimes by risking their lives, helped me get out of the border and reach a safe place on the difficult and long path of this journey," Rasoulof, whose film "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" is to premiere at Cannes, wrote on his official Instagram page.

Rasoulof was sentenced by an Iranian court to eight years in jail, of which five were due to be served, on charges of "collusion against national security", his lawyer Babak Paknia said last week.

"I can confirm that Mohammad Rasoulof has left Iran and will attend the Cannes festival," Paknia told AFP on Monday.

Rasoulof, 51, was not believed to have been in jail. It is common in Iran for defendants to be outside prison when sentences are handed out and later called to jail to serve their terms.

'Dangerous journey'

A statement from his French distributors was more circumspect on his attendance in Cannes, saying Rasoulof was "currently staying in an undisclosed location in Europe, raising the possibility that he might be present at the world premiere of his most recent film."

He was released in late 2023 after anti-government protests that began in September 2022 subsided.


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