But that’s exactly what happened to Jafar Panahi, the director of "The white Balloon". One of the reasons for the harsh sentence is that in his films, Panahi deals with the social problems in Iran. His film "The Circle", for example, tells the story of a woman from Teheran who cannot buy a bus ticket, and thus cannot travel, without her husband’s permission. This film cannot be shown in Iran simply because the government does not want it to be seen.
And those film directors who are not in prison or have not emigrated are not free to shoot their films as they wish either. Every step is monitored by a state official, and they face the constant threat that the entire film, or parts of it, will be banned. The result is that directors are not free to make their films in the way they would like to. Many of them conform to the rules so that they don’t invest time, energy and money in a film that will end up being banned. Nobody would want that.
And even Iranian filmmakers who produce critical films abroad cannot work entirely without restrictions: They cannot, for example, travel to Iran for interviews or to shoot scenes. In order to bring attention to this injustice, this year’s Berlinale will be showing one film by Jafar Panahi in every section of the festival. In the 'Generation' section, the film will be "The White Balloon", showing at the House of World Cultures on Monday afternoon. Sadly for us, there will be no audience discussion with the director following the screening - Jafar Panahi is not able to attend.