TEHRAN – The Iranian director Jafar Panahiwho was arrested last summer, weeks before his latest film was released to huge acclaim, went on a hunger strike to protest his detention amid more than four months of anti-government protests.
Panahi, whose films have wowed critics and won numerous international awards, has announced that he will refuse food or medicine starting today “in protest against the extralegal and inhumane behavior of the judicial and security systems.” The 62-year-old filmmaker was sentenced to six years in prison in 2011 on charges of producing anti-government propaganda, but the sentence was never carried out.
Banned from both traveling and cinema, he continued to make underground films which were released overseas to great acclaim. Panahi was arrested in July when he went to the Tehran prosecutor’s office to investigate the arrests of two other Iranian filmmakers. Later, a judge ruled that he had to serve his previous sentence. His latest film, Bears Don’t Exist, in which he plays a fictional version of himself while filming along the Iranian-Turkish border, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September, a week before start of the protests. The New York Times and the Associated Press named it one of the 10 best films of the year, and film critic Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times named it the best film of 2022.