Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who was jailed for "anti-regime" activities prior to this year's Cannes Film Festival, where he was to have served as one of the jurors, has been forbidden to leave Iran to attend the Venice Film Festival. His absence was conspicuous as his film The Accordion , opened the short film section on Wednesday. Panahi was released from prison last May after an outcry by international filmmakers at Cannes. On Wednesday, festival officials in Venice released a letter they had received from him, in which he said "Despite having been released, I am still not free to travel outside my country to attend film festivals. ... When a film-maker is not allowed to make films, he is mentally imprisoned. He may not be confined to a small cell, but he is still wandering in a larger prison." Panahi, who won the Venice festival's top Golden Lion award in 2000 for his film Circle , thanked filmmakers for their support. "In the most desperate moments of my imprisonment," he said, "I drew courage thinking of myself as a proud member of this community."

02/09/2010