Venice: Film Festival Execs Urge Support For Jafar Panahi, Motaz Atowab, Çiğdem Mater & Filmmakers Under Attack Around The World

A panel of international figures joined forces today at the Venice Festival to pledge their support for filmmakers suffering oppression, harassment and imprisonment around the world.

Participants in the panel included the Director of the Venice Film Festival Alberto BarberaVanja Kalurdjercic (Croatia, Director of the Rotterdam International Film Festival), Sinem Sakaoglu (Turkey, director), Orwa Nyrabia (Director of the Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival), Mike Downey (President of the European Film Academy) and Kaveh Farnam (Iran, producer).

Vania Kaludjercic gave the context for the founding two years ago of the International Coalition Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR), arising out of a shared concern for independent storytellers whose lives and livelihoods at risk. In those two years, the ICFR has helped filmmakers from Afghanistan to Egypt, Myanmar to Iran, and most recently, in Ukraine.

She described how ICFR had mobilised the international film community to raise 420,000 euros, enough to help with emergency relocation, visas, shelter and other expenses for 400 filmmakers in Ukraine.

She said: “The war in Ukraine showed the power of the film community, demonstrates to the whole world that we can stand up for ourselves and together help our colleagues under threat.”

Orwa Nyrabia cited the ICFR’s success in helping filmmakers in Afghanistan – of 800 individual filmmakers and their families, 60% had been relocated to safe countries. He added, however, “This is no longer a news story, but this doesn’t mean we forget.” And he cited the tragic case of Mantas Kvedaravičius, a Lithunian filmmaker murdered in Ukraine. “The fact that he was murdered so brutally makes us remember why we do all of this. It can be sometimes too late.”

The challenge is getting bigger, said Kalurdjercic: “The world and society at large is more aggravated than two years ago. Our concerns are deeper. Today we have way more to talk about.”

Everybody on the panel used individual cases to demonstrate the urgency of the ICFR’s work:

  • Jafar PanahiThe dissident Iranian filmmaker, who has already been arrested and condemned in the past, will naturally be unable to attend the Venice Film Festival because he was again deprived of his personal freedom last July for having protested together with many of his colleagues against the arrest of two other directors, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad which occurred following the protests against the violence against civilians in Iran.
  • Motaz Atowab –  detained in Egypt, and only freed after a year and a half
  • Çiğdem Mater – Turkish female filmmaker sentenced to 18 years, after being raided on the set of her film

“We need more supporters and sponsors if we’re to be effective and strong. We need to expand our operations from being reactive to proactive and to become a monitoring situation to make us more effective,” said Mike Downey.

Sakaoglu finished with a handwritten note by Çiğdem Mater:

“Dear filmmaking community – tThough it didn’t seem that way, we have embarked on a difficult task in difficult times. The solidarity and global support continually reassures me that we are on the right path and doing what is right. With the hopes of freedom and of meeting at festivals soon.”

And Downey finished with a note from Jafar, made an ambassador for ICFR when it was founded two years ago and now in prison himself:

“The unconditional support of filmmakers is the best support a filmmaker at risk can get.”

Downey added, “Now Jafar needs our help.”

In support of Jafar Panahi will be a flash-mob event on Friday September 9 at 4.30pm, scheduled to take place on the red carpet ahead of a screening of Panahi’s film in competition at the Festival, Kehrs nist (No Bears).

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