Iranian director banned from leaving country gets standing ovation at Cannes

Jafar Panahi, at his Tehran home,Internationally acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, slated to serve as a jury member at the Cannes festival, couldn't attend because he was being heldæ in TehranÍs Evin prison. In March 2010, plainclothes security officials raided PanahiÍs Tehran home and arrested him along with his wife, daughter and 15 house guests. Though Iranian authorities shortly released the others, they held on to Panahi, accusing him of ñmaking a film against the regime following the post-election events,Tehran-Iran1/01/2006/Credit:SATYAR/SIPA/1005151254

CANNES: The new film by Iran’s Jafar Panahi, who is banned from leaving Iran, has premiered to a standing ovation at the Cannes film festival, with a seat left symbolically empty for the dissident director.

Panahi’s children and the cast of Three Faces, which is vying for the Palme d’Or top prize, were welcomed with thunderous applause as they arrived for the gala screening late Saturday.

The meditative story about the intertwined fate of three Iranian women is one of 21 movies in competition at the world’s biggest film festival.

It is the second Iranian work in competition alongside Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows starring Spanish star couple Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.

Panahi, 57, was banned from making movies and leaving the country after supporting mass protests in 2009 and making a series of films that critiqued the state of modern Iran.

Pleas by Oscar-winning US director Oliver Stone and other supporters to let him travel to Cannes have fallen on deaf ears in Tehran.

But the bans have not stopped Panahi from working in secret and his 2015 picture Taxi won the Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival to the consternation of his conservative critics back home.

His new film, starring Panahi himself and veteran actress Behnaz Jafari, puts the spotlight on the social and professional problems encountered by Iranian women, especially actresses.

Panahi is one of two Palme d’Or contenders to be barred from attending Cannes this year.

Actress Behnaz Jafari (R) cries next to Iranian actress Marziyeh Rezaei at the Cannes premiere of “Three Faces” by barred Iran’s Jafari Panahi

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