Although Secretary of State Clinton is facing criticism of her own when it came to making sure that filmmaker Mark Basseley Youssef was arrested and placed in jail, it has not stopped her from calling on Iran to release their own imprisoned filmmaker.
Secretary Clinton released the following statement on Friday evening regarding the Iranian government’s imprisonment of Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and filmmaker Jafar Panahi:
The United States congratulates Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and filmmaker Jafar Panahi for receiving the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. We also wish to congratulate the other finalists, Ales Byalyatski, a recipient of the State Department’s 2011 Human Rights Defender award, Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina.
The work of Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi to uphold human rights and promote freedom of expression represents the desires of all Iranians to exercise their basic rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, they will not be able to enjoy today’s recognition. Despite her deteriorating health, Iranian authorities have imprisoned Sotoudeh and sentenced her to six more years in prison. Panahi has been sentenced to six years in prison and a 20-year ban on filmmaking and travel has been imposed on him. We call on the Iranian government to release Sotoudeh immediately, lift the restrictions and sentence on Panahi and release all political prisoners and others detained simply for their religious or political beliefs.
According to the International Film Festival of Rotterdam, “last December, Jafar Panahi and his fellow filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof were sentenced by a Revolutionary Court to six years imprisonment. They were also banned from making films for a period of twenty years(!).”
The indiewire film blog described Panahi’s film, The White Balloon, which the Iranian regime found to be offensive enough to imprison Panahi for, as:
A classic of the Iranian New Wave, and in its day, the most successful and acclaimed Iranian film to be released in the U.S. ever, Jafar Panahi’s masterpiece “The White Balloon” looks to be AWOL from American screens, big and small. Maybe someone out there knows the status of U.S. home video distribution rights for this important film, but according to my research, “The White Balloon” appears to have vanished into the ether, available for purchase only on obscure Iranian movie websites and in Spanish PAL versions.
Released by Jeff Lipsky and Bingham Ray’s October Films in 1995, “The White Balloon” was hailed by critics for its simplicity of storytelling and delicate touch. Few saw it for its supremely subtle and artfully crafted political perspective—a precursor to Panahi’s equally excellent and more overt social commentaries (i.e. “The Circle,” “Crimson Gold” and “Offside”). It was Jonathan Rosenbaum, in a lengthy review in the Chicago Reader, who saw past the film’s more obvious neorealist aesthetic, discovering something far more complex.
Charles Woods, the father of slain retired Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, told a number of media outlets recently that Secretary Clinton told him that she would make sure that the filmmaker behind the video The Innocence of Muslims, Mr. Yousef, would be arrested and prosecuted. Sec. Clinton, President Barack Obama, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice then went on to falsely blame the Mr. Yousef’s obscure online video trailer for inciting the deadly terrorist attack in Benghazi that took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
In the meantime, U.S. filmmaker Mark Basseley Yousef, was arrested in southern California one month ago on a probation violation and is being held without bond until his next court date on November 9.