Venice’s red carpet became a stage for quiet protest on Friday, as festival director Alberto Barbera and jury president Julianne Moore, among many more, held a somber walk-out to stand in solidarity with imprisoned filmmaker Jafar Panahi.
Traffic on the red carpet flowed normally as attendees made their way into Venice’s Palazzo del Cinema for the world premiere of Panahi’s latest film, “No Bears.” And then, at 4:30 pm sharp, the doors to the theater swung open and a sea of people filed out. Moore stood with a delegation that also included fellow juror Audrey Diwan, Horizons jury president Isabel Coixet, and filmmakers Laura Bispuri and Sally Potter.
In a steely show of resolve, many held posters calling for the release of Panahi, Mohammad Rasoulof, and Mostafa Al-Ahmad, the three Iranian filmmakers imprisoned earlier this year. Others stood for Myanmar’s Ma Aeint and Turkey’s Çiğdem Mater, two producers also facing government attacks.
Giving no remarks, the delegation stood before the theater for ten minutes before returning inside to watch the Panahi film.
The somber demonstration was organized by the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR), an advocacy group co-founded by IDFA, Rotterdam, and the European Film Academy, and launched out of Venice in 2020. Earlier at this year’s festival, the coalition organized a panel called “Filmmakers Under Attack: Taking Stock, Taking Action.” There, attendees received a joint statement from Panahi and Rasoulof.
“We are filmmakers,” they said. “We are part of Iranian independent cinema. For us, to live is to create. We create works that are not commissioned. Therefore, those in power see us as criminals. Independent cinema reflects its own times. It draws inspiration from society. And cannot be indifferent to it.”
“The history of Iranian cinema witnesses the constant and active presence of independent directors who have struggled to push back censorship and to ensure the survival of this art. While on this path, some were banned from making films, others were forced into exile or reduced to isolation. And yet, the hope of creating again is a reason for existence. No matter where, when, or under what circumstances, an independent filmmaker is either creating or thinking about creation. We are filmmakers, independent ones.”