Iranian Filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof Urges: 'Don't Be Afraid'

Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof challenges censorship at Cannes Festival

by Zain ul Abedin
Iranian Filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof Urges: 'Don't Be Afraid'
© Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, a notable dissident, made a bold statement at the Cannes Film Festival, urging his fellow artists to resist Iran's oppressive regime. Rasoulof escaped Iran to present his latest film, The Seed of the Sacred Fig, which is competing at Cannes.

During a press conference, he encouraged Iranian filmmakers to defy censorship and stand up for their rights. The Seed of the Sacred Fig might receive recognition from the Cannes jury, but Rasoulof's message is what resonated the most.

He used the platform to highlight the fear tactics used by the Iranian government and to rally his peers against intimidation. "My only message to Iranian cinema is don’t be afraid of intimidation and censorship in Iran," he declared.

"The regime is afraid. They want us to feel afraid, but don’t let yourself be intimidated. We have to fight for a dignified life. " Rasoulof's journey is a testament to his message. A few weeks ago, he fled Iran on foot after being sentenced to eight years in prison.

On the red carpet at Cannes, he held up photos of his film’s lead actors, Missagh Zareh and Soheila Golestani, who were barred from leaving Iran by the authorities.

Defiant Creativity Unleashed

At the press conference, Rasoulof was both defiant and lighthearted, joking that his film crew called themselves "the gangsters of cinema" for breaking all of Iran’s censorship rules.

The Seed of the Sacred Fig openly criticizes the Iranian regime, shows women and girls without hijabs, and depicts police violence against peaceful protesters, defying many official taboos. Reflecting on the challenges of making the film, Rasoulof quipped, "We joked if we wanted to see cocaine, it would have been easier [than making this movie].

" Now living in exile in Germany, he continues to criticize the Iranian government from abroad. "I have joined the cultural Iran that exists outside its borders," he noted. Despite the risks, Rasoulof remains steadfast in his beliefs.

He pointed out that the regime's fear of independent cinema is a sign of its weakness. "The regime portrays itself as a supreme power, but they’re afraid of the stories we tell," he said. "Why do they try to repress independent cinema?" In a powerful call to action, Rasoulof urged his fellow artists to "remain true to your own beliefs and uphold your freedom of expression.

" His defiance and courage inspire many in the global artistic community. Neon has acquired The Seed of the Sacred Fig for North American distribution, while Films Boutique handles the film's global sales.