Iranian Director Mohammad Rasoulof Wins Special Jury Prize at Cannes for Film Highlighting Injustice Amid Personal and National Struggle

Cannes, France – Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, recently escaped from Iran, has been honored at the Cannes Film Festival with a special jury prize for his latest movie, which deep dives into the trials of a court investigator amid anti-government protests. Rasoulof, 51, faced with a harsh prison sentence in Iran, expressed his emotions through his film “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” which spotlighted the plight of his team still facing pressures in Iran.

In his heartfelt acceptance speech, Rasoulof dedicated his award to his courageous film crew in Iran, stressing the continued surveillance and intimidation they endure under the Iranian secret services. The festival acknowledged his work for highlighting the “unsustainable injustice” in his homeland, a sentiment echoed during the film’s 12-minute standing ovation.

Meanwhile, the festival’s grand prize was bestowed upon “Anora,” a film blending drama and humor in the story of an exotic dancer entangled with a wealthy Russian oligarch’s son.

Earlier, Rasoulof detailed his agonizing decision to flee Iran or face imprisonment. A vocal critic of Iran’s repressive measures, Rasoulof has previously been incarcerated twice for his outspoken views and cinematic endeavors. This May, his situation escalated when he was condemned to eight years behind bars and corporal punishment, accused of jeopardizing national security.

His daring escape remains shrouded in secrecy; however, Rasoulof credits his strategic exit to the invaluable insights gained from past detentions and interactions with Iranian authorities. Mastery over discrete communications and financial transactions was crucial to his successful departure from Iran.

Rasoulof also revealed that the concept for “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” was conceived during his time in confinement, where the harsh realities of institutional oppression further fueled his creativity and resolve.

International film groups and human rights organizations have voiced stout opposition to Iran’s actions against the director, demanding his unconditional release prior to his escape.

Previously, Rasoulof’s critical acclaim peaked when he captured the top accolade at the Berlin Film Festival in 2020 with “There Is No Evil.” The film comprises four vignettes that subtly critique Iran’s capital punishment policy and the broader suppression of personal freedoms.

Addressing the audience in Cannes, Rasoulof remarked on the profound grief that the Iranian political landscape invokes in him. “It is deeply saddening to witness the daily suffering of my people,” he said, lamenting the totalitarian grip on Iran. His poignant reflections and relentless advocacy continue to resonate across the global filmmaking community and beyond, spotlighting the enduring struggle for fundamental rights and freedoms in Iran.