Iranian Director Saeed Roustayi Jailed For Screening Film ‘Leila’s Brothers’ in Cannes

Iranian Director Saeed Roustayi Jailed For Screening Film ‘Leila’s Brothers’ in Cannes

Iranian director and screenwriter Saeed Roustayi has been sentenced to six months in prison for screening his film Leila’s Brothers at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival without necessary authorization, according to local reports.

The filmmaker — alongside his producer Javad Noruzbegi — were on Tuesday found guilty of “contributing to propaganda of the opposition against the Islamic system” by Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court, as per reports in the Iranian daily Etemad and Radio Free Europe.

The court ruled that the two will serve about nine days in jail, while the remaining of the sentence will be suspended over five years, during which time they have effectively been banned from making films. The requirements say that they “refrain from activities related to the committed crime or using tools effective in it,” “avoid contact and association with individuals active in the film industry” and “attend a filmmaking course at the Qom Sound and Vision Academy.”

Related Stories

Leila’s Brothers, centered on an Iranian woman as she tries to keep her family afloat amid corruption and the impact of international sanctions, was in the main competition in Cannes, winning the FIPRESCI prize. In his acceptance speech, Roustayi said the film had been made in honor of those grieving following the deadly collapse of a tower in the Iranian city of Abadan. The speech angered Iranian authorities, who promptly banned Leila’s Brothers from releasing in the country. At the time, local media reported the film had been banned after it “broke the rules by being entered at international film festivals without authorization.”

Roustayi and Noruzbegi join a growing number of Iranian filmmakers to fall foul of the authoritarian regime, especially in light of the recent protest movement. Jafar Panahi — who won the Cannes best screenplay award in 2018 for 3 Faces but was unable to attend, as he was banned from leaving Iran — was arrested in 2022 and sentenced to six years in jail after going to the prosecutor’s office to ask about the detention of fellow filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof. He was eventually released on bail 48 hours after beginning a hunger strike in February 2023.

Meanwhile, prominent Iranian actresses Afsaneh Bayegan, Fatemeh Motamed-Arya, Katayoun Riahi and Pantea Bahram were interrogated after they showed solidarity with the protests by making public appearances without the mandatory hijab, and are now face legal action.