03 March 2020 :
A film by an Iranian director about capital punishment has won the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. Mohammad Rasoulof was banned from directing in 2017. He produced There Is No Evil, his sixth film, in secret. He is unable to travel outside Iran owing to charges relating to his earlier films. Mr Rasoulof's daughter Baran, who also stars in the film, received the Golden Bear on his behalf. Jury president Jeremy Irons said that the film, which tells four stories about the death penalty, showed "the web an authoritarian regime weaves among ordinary people, drawing them towards inhumanity". Addressing a news conference by video call, Mr Rasoulof explained that There Is No Evil was about "people taking responsibility". "I wanted to talk about people who push responsibility away from themselves and say that the decision is taken by higher powers," he said. "But they can actually say no, and that's their strength." "The story of each part of the film is based on my own experience," Mr Rasoulof said in a Skype interview with the Berlin festival published the day before the awards were announced. He went on to describe how one of the film's four episodes came about after he saw a man, who had interrogated him while he was in prison, coming out of a bank. After following the man for a while, "I realised how normal he was and how much he resembled all other people. I realised that there was no monster involved, there was no evil in front of me, just a person who has not questioned his own actions." Rasoulof is one of his country’s most prominent directors even though none of his films have screened in Iran where they are banned. In 2011, the year he won two prizes at Cannes with his censorship-themed “Goodbye,” Rasoulof was sentenced with fellow director Jafar Panahi to six years in prison and a 20-year ban on filmmaking for alleged anti-regime propaganda. His sentence was later suspended and he was released on bail. In 2017 Iranian authorities confiscated Rasoulof’s passport upon his return from the Telluride Film Festival where his “A Man of Integrity,” about corruption and injustice in Iran, had screened. Prior to the Berlin ceremony, Rasoulof spoke to Variety from Iran about how he’s contending with ongoing oppression there and how tensions with Trump are making things worse. Variety asked if the film wasmentioned by the Iranian press when it got selected for the Berlinale competition. Rasoulof said of a couple of small mentions…One conservative outlet said that Berlin is not such a big festival, so it’s no big deal. That’s about it. I haven’t had any reactions from the authorities, but I’m expecting them. Variety insisted on how are tensions with Trump impacting filmmakers in Iran. Rasoulof “There is a conservative backlash, and it’s impact on cinema is very obvious. Very recently at the Fajr Film Festival in Tehran half of the films presented there were entirely financed by the Power, by the government. More specifically, by the military investment that is behind this fund…So the independent film community is getting smaller and smaller. And the pressure that they feel indicates that there is a specific plan on the part of the security and military forces in Iran to use cinema as a tool”.