Hollywood Film Directors and Actors Demand Freedom for Brother of Acclaimed Iranian Filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi

Press Release
December 5, 2012

Hollywood Film Directors and Actors Demand Freedom for Brother of Acclaimed Iranian Filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi

Nazanin Boniadi, Paul Haggis, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Liam Neeson, Martin Scorsese Sign Amnesty International Petition

Contact: Anya Palkowski, apalkowski@aiusa.org, 212-633-4268

(New York) – More than 40 Hollywood directors and actors and independent filmmakers are joining Amnesty International to demand the release of Iranian filmmaker Behrouz Ghobadi – the younger brother of acclaimed film director Bahman Ghobadi (Rhino Season) – who has been detained incommunicado since his arrest by plainclothes forces in Iran on Nov. 4. Behrouz Ghobadi’s imprisonment is the latest in Iran’s continuing crackdown on filmmakers and directors.

Despite warnings from his brother that Behrouz Ghobadi suffers from gout, a heart condition, asthma, and has platinum pins in his legs from a car accident that could easily result in medical complications if stressed, he has been held incommunicado with no indication that he is receiving proper medical care.

Since his detention, Behrouz has had no contact with his family and has not been permitted to see an attorney. His family has searched several prisons and asked the Iranian judiciary for information, but has not been able to learn his location or the conditions in which he is being held.

Internationally renowned actors, film directors, screenwriters, journalists and film society executives have signed Amnesty International’s petition for Ghobadi’s release, including Martin Scorsese, Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Adrien Brody, Nazanin Boniadi, and Paul Haggis.

“It appears that Iran wants to hunt down and muzzle every one of its artists and filmmakers to silence challenges to the authorities’ repressive policies,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Stifling creative expression by imprisoning artists is an attack on freedom of expression and the act of a closed regime that is unwilling to tolerate dialogue, much less criticism.”

“Iranian authorities have been jailing filmmakers for imaginary offenses for far too long,” said Nazanin Boniadi, an Amnesty International spokesperson since 2009 who spearheaded the petition in Hollywood. “We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to this appalling suppression of free speech. We will continue to build support until the din of protest and indignation is too loud for them to ignore.”

Boniadi launched Amnesty International’s petition in 2010 to free jailed filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammed Rasoulof, and collaborated on The Neda Project commemorating the first anniversary of the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan on the streets of Tehran in 2009.

Behrouz Ghobadi is the director of three short films titled “That Man,” “Hunt,” and “Those Two People,” and has worked as an executive producer and production manager for six of his brother’s controversial films. His family has heard that he is accused of acting against national security, but maintains his innocence given that he has never been involved in politics and has no connections to dissident activities other than his brother’s films.

The call for Ghobadi’s release is part of an ongoing Amnesty International campaign to expose and prevent the imprisonment of dissenters and peaceful protestors in Iran. Most recently, filmmaker Jafar Panahi was the subject of a campaign during which Amnesty International delivered a stack of petitions demanding his release to the Iranian embassy in New York. Panahi still faces a six-year prison sentence.

Bahman Ghobadi, is an outspoken government critic currently living in exile. Bahman’s films A Time for Drunken Horses (2000), Turtles Can Fly (2004), Marooned in Iraq (2002) and Half Moon (2006) have won numerous prizes at film festivals. Several of his films are banned in Iran. One of Bahman’s recent films, No One Knows About Persian Cats (2009), chronicles the struggles of young Iranian musicians attempting to evade censorship, while his most recent film, Rhino Season (2012), tells the story of a poet who spent 27 years in prison in Iran.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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