Berlin film fest invites Iranian ex-detainee to join jury

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The Berlin Film Festival said Monday it had invited outspoken Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, on bail after three months in a Tehran jail, to serve on its jury in February.

"We hope Jafar Panahi will be able to attend the festival and perform this important task on the international jury of the 61st Berlinale," the event's director Dieter Kosslick said in a statement.

Panahi, 50, went on a hunger strike to protest the conditions of his detention after his March 1 arrest and was released from Tehran's Evin prison on May 25 after posting bail of two billion rials (around 200,000 dollars).

A vocal backer of Iran's opposition movement, Panahi was arrested at his home along with 16 other people, including his wife and daughter. Most were subsequently released.

The charges against Panahi were not announced.

But Culture Minister Mohammad Hosseini said in April that he was detained for making an "anti-regime" film about the unrest that rocked Iran after last year's disputed re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In February the Iranian authorities banned Panahi from leaving the country to attend the Berlin Film Festival.

Cannes then invited Panahi to join its own jury in May.

Headed by "Alice in Wonderland" director Tim Burton, the panel called for his release and left a seat symbolically empty for him on stage at the festival's red-carpet gala opening.

Panahi is known for his gritty, socially critical movies such as "The Circle", which captured the 2000 Venice Golden Lion award, "Crimson Gold" and "Offside", winner of the 2006 Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

Italian-American actress and director Isabella Rossellini will chair the international jury at the Berlin Film Festival, one of Europe's top cinema showcases, from February 10 to 20.

The panel selects the winners of the Golden and Silver Bear top prizes.

© 2010 AFP

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