The ongoing clampdown on filmmakers in Iran is continuing at a worrying pace.
Mani Haghighi is the latest to be impacted, the actor and director having been prevented from leaving Iran to attend the BFI London Film Festival, where his film Subtraction was due to premiere on Oct. 15. The Hollywood Reporter understands that Haghighi, who first debuted the film in Toronto, where he was able to attend, was stopped at the airport in Iran and had his passport confiscated. He has since returned to his home in Tehran.
“We understand that no reason has been given to Mani Haghighi for the confiscation. The BFI London Film Festival supports Haghighi and all filmmakers in their freedom to make their films and present them around the world,” said a film festival spokesperson.
The spokesperson added, “Earlier this week, in solidarity with imprisoned Iranian filmmakers and the brave women of Iran who are challenging for their freedom, BFI London Film Festival filmmakers and delegates joined Festival Director, Tricia Tuttle, in a moment of solidarity and reflection.”
In July, Iran’s judiciary ordered that Jafar Panahi, one of Iran’s most celebrated directors, was to serve out a six-year prison sentence from a decade ago that had never been enforced, an order than came as the Iranian government looked to silence criticism.
A hugely popular filmmaker and a regular on the festival circuit, Haghighi has premiered several films in Berlin, including Modest Reception, Pig and A Dragon Arrives, and has collaborated teamed with Asghar Farhadi on two features. As an actor, he starred in Farhadi’s much-lauded breakout feature About Elly and, most recently, the 2020 drama Amphibious from Borzou Niknejad.
The prevention of Haghighi from leaving Iran comes amid turmoil in the country following the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody in Tehran on Sept. 16. Her alleged murder at the hands of authorities sparked widespread protests with thousands — many of them teenage girls and women — taking to the streets to oppose the regime and to push for their basic rights, most prominently women’s rights, while a brutal authoritarian crackdown has, according to human rights groups, led to the killing of hundreds of people so far.
Farhadi has been one of the most prominent voices from within the country, the two-time Oscar winner putting out a video and statement last month in which he invited artists to declare solidarity with the people of Iran and praising the “progressive and courageous” women leading the protests.