Jailed Iran director Panahi appears on-screen in Cannes

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The jailed Iranian film-maker, Jafar Panahi, described being interrogated by police in a clip screened Thursday at the Cannes film festival.

In the three-minute excerpt, Panahi, described an incident three years before his latest arrest when an Iranian security official interrogated him for three hours before releasing him with a threat of further questioning.

"As I left, he said I would be summoned again," Panahi said on the film, screened by organisers of the Cannes film festival.

"He asked me, 'Why do you stay in Iran? Why don't you make films abroad?" Panahi said of his interrogator.

He added that when he was released, the guard added: "I loved The Circle," Panahi's 2000 movie about the oppression of women in the Islamic Republic.

Panahi, 49, has been held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since March 1, when he was detained by Iranian authorities, reportedly because he was making a film about the disputed 2009 presidential election.

The arrest prevented him from coming to Cannes where he had been invited to sit on the jury that names the winner of the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or.

On Wednesday the head of the jury, US director Tim Burton, joined calls for Panahi's release and the jury left a seat symbolically empty for Panahi on stage at its gala opening on Wednesday.

France, which hosts the world's top film festival, also urged Iran to release the film-maker.

"He is one of the most eminent representatives of Iranian film and his place is at the festival where he has been invited as a member of the jury," said Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand in a joint statement.

Iranian films have blossomed in recent decades thanks to Panahi and several other world-renowned auteurs such as Abbas Kiarostami, but state censorship under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes it hard for them to work in Iran.

Kiarostami, hailed as one of the finest directors in the world, has his latest film "Certified Copy" in competition at Cannes this month. It was filmed in Italy -- the first movie he has made outside his native country.

© 2010 AFP

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