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World-renowned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, famous for his 2006 film Offside, has been engaged in a hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison since Sunday.
Tahere Saeidi, the filmmaker’s wife, told the Rahesabz website that Panahi told her on the phone that he will continue his protest until he is allowed to see his family, meet with a lawyer, and be set free pending trial.
“I swear on the cinema in which I believe: I will not stop my [hunger] strike until my wishes are fulfilled,” he wrote. “My last wish is that my corpse be given back to my family so they are able to bury me where they like.”
Panahi has been detained since early March on charges of producing a film on the unrest inside the country after the June 2009 election.
The freedom to make films was the focus of the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, where Panahi was supposed to have been a juror on the panel but obviously could not attend because of his detention.
Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami made a plea for Panahi’s release at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday.
“I can’t understand how a film can be described as a crime when it is yet to be shown to anyone,” said Kiarostami, adding, “When a filmmaker is imprisoned, it is the art which is attacked. I believe we can’t remain different to the situation. One can’t give up hope.”
The Iranian culture has been long known for its art: its painters, writers, poets, musicians, and filmmakers. Iran has made a name for itself in the international community through its art. This can be seen in the very fact that many notable American film directors have called for Panahi’s release including Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Robert Redford, Martin Scorcese, Robert de Niro, and Michael Moore.
The Islamic Republic must release Panahi and show the world and remind Iranians in particular just how much art is revered in our culture.  We cannot have our artists continuously punished for their work. We cannot continue to scare Iranians from even trying to produce something truly magnificent.

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