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Rasoulof, director who fled Iran, will attend Cannes

Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof at the 2017 edition of the Cannes Film Festival
— Cannes (France) (AFP)

Award-winning director Mohammad Rasoulof, who made a dramatic clandestine escape from Iran this month, will attend the Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of his new movie, organisers told AFP on Tuesday.

Rasoulof will be in Cannes on Friday when "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" competes for the Palme d'Or, the festival's top prize, its director Thierry Fremaux said.

An outspoken critic of the Iranian government, Rasoulof served two terms in Iranian jails over previous films and had his passport withdrawn in 2017.

His new film tells the story of a judge's struggles amid political unrest in Tehran, and he had come under pressure to withdraw it from Cannes before the festival opened.

He was then sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of "collusion against national security".

On the eve of the festival last week, Rasoulof revealed that he had escaped Iran, later telling The Guardian that he made an "exhausting and extremely dangerous" journey on foot.

It had not been clear if he would attend Cannes after finding asylum in Germany.

"We are particularly touched to welcome (Rasoulof) here as a filmmaker. Our joy will be that of all festival-goers and all freedom-loving Iranians," Fremaux said in a statement to AFP.

"We would like to reaffirm the support of the Cannes Film Festival for all artists around the world who suffer violence and reprisals in the expression of their art."

Rasoulof told AFP last week that he feared for the "safety and well-being" of fellow filmmakers in Iran.

"The global film community must provide strong support to the makers of these films," he said in a statement.

He won the Berlin Film Festival's top prize, the Golden Bear, in 2020 for "There Is No Evil" and won the Un Certain Regard parallel section at Cannes with "A Man of Integrity" in 2017.