From Screen Daily June 17, 2009: Iranian Kurdish filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi whose film No One Knows About the Persian Cats opened Un Certain Regard in Cannes was arrested by police on his return to Iran after being accused of “severe criticism” of the Iranian Government during the festival. He was released with a caution on June 9.
His arrest and subsequent release followed the release of Roxani Saberi, Ghobadi’s fiancée and co-writer of Cats. She was initially sentenced to an eight-year prison term for espionage in April. An appeal court reduced her punishment to a two-year suspended sentence and she was released from Tehran’s Evin Prison in May, shortly before Cannes.
Although exact details about the charges against Saberi remain unknown, it is thought that the initial charge of “passing secret information” had been reduced to “having access to classified information”. Saberi was also banned from working as a journalist in Iran for five years.
French company Wild Bunch is handling sales of Cats. The film highlights Tehran’s underground rock and heavy metal community, who borrow Western melodies to write political songs. It won a special jury prize in the Un Certain Regard competition of the Cannes Film Festival.
Ghobadi shot Cats underground in 17 days with an S12K camera. In Iran, 35mm equipment is owned by the state. The title refers to a law that bans dogs and cats from being outdoors. Wild Bunch is working with Ghobadi on his next project.
Iran is currently facing its biggest political protests for 30 years following last week’s disputed presidential poll. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected last week with almost two-thirds of the votes but supporters of defeated candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, are protesting against what they claim is a fraudulent poll.
Protests have led to clashes in Tehran between protesters and security forces and heavy restrictions have been placed on foreign media reporting unauthorised demonstrations. Further protests were expected today (June 17).