Iran film-maker blocked from Cannes despite travel clearance

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Iranian authorities are preventing director Mohammad Rasoulof from travelling to the Cannes film festival despite the dissident being cleared to come to France, his distributor said on Friday.

The festival celebrated Tuesday the possibility that Rasoulof would present his film "Be Omid e Didar" (Goodbye) in the parallel Un Certain Regard section after authorities lifted his travel ban.

But his French distributor, James Velaise, told AFP that Rasoulof was going through a Kafkaesque nightmare at the hands of Iranian authorities and would not be in Cannes.

"Even with a letter to leave, you have to go through other offices to get an exit visa, and technically there's no way he can get that before the end of Cannes," Velaise said.

"He knows it's not going to work, he did try, but to be able to do so in a matter of days is not going to be possible."

A court in December sentenced Rasoulof, along with fellow director Jafar Panahi, to six years in jail and barred him from making films for 20 years. The two were released on bail pending an appeal but banned from travel abroad.

Rasoulof's lawyer Iman Mirza-Zadeh said on Tuesday that he received official confirmation that the ban on him leaving Iran had been lifted.

"Things are too Kafkaesque in Iran," Velaise said. "Just because some people say you can go that doesn't mean you can. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing."

"Everyone would have loved him to turn up even at the last minute but we know it's not going to happen."

Ironically, Rasoulof's film tells the story of a young Tehran lawyer trying to get a visa to leave Iran.

Cannes organisers have said it was made in "semi-clandestine conditions," but his lawyer said Rasoulof had received official permission to make the feature.

Iran has accused the Cannes film festival of being political for screening movies by Iranians who back the Islamic republic's opposition movement, including Panahi, on whose travel ban Mirza-Zadeh had no news.

The Islamic regime has convicted Panahi of "propaganda against the system" for making a film about unrest after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.

© 2011 AFP

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