05 May 2010

Free Jafar Panahi

I want to take a moment to draw attention to some organizing efforts on behalf of the Iranian director Jafar Panahi. For those who haven't heard, Panahi, the director of several fine films including Crimson Gold (2003) and Offside (2006), was arrested March 1 for "unspecified crimes." He remains in custody and has since been accused of attempting to make a film against the regime, potentially a serious charge in Iran.

Shortly after Panahi's arrest, a number of Iranian filmmakers and other artists signed a petition calling for his release, and this past week a number of major American filmmakers and critics have launched a petition of their own. This post from critic Anthony Kaufman, one of the organizers of the latter effort, briefly summarizes how that petition came about.

The post also touches on a key issue, perhaps the key issue regarding this type of organizing, which is the possibility that such efforts to call attention to government-sponsored injustice could be ineffective or even backfire by prompting backlash from the authorities. I'm no expert on Iran either, but I think Anthony's analysis here is fundamentally correct. The depth and length of the protests in the aftermath of last year's elections clearly showed some major fissures in public support for the current regime, and international expressions of solidarity with the opposition have clearly had a positive impact on morale, if nothing else.

Coming attractions: I'll have something to say about Obama's Supreme Court pick sometime after he gets around to making one. Also, I was going to do a post about the new Arizona immigration law, but found that I don't have anything original to say about it. I will say that I persist in the belief that the right of law-abiding persons of whatever ethnicity to go about their daily business without fear of being randomly harassed by the police cuts close to the heart of what it means to live in a free society.