Iranian and Russian Directors Prohibited From Attending Cannes

Two empty seats at the Cannes Film Festival received standing ovations this week as the cast and crew of 3 Faces and Leto dealt with the absence of their chiefs.

Iranian director Jafar Panahi and Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov were both selected to have their films shown at Cannes this year, Panahi for 3 Faces and Serebrennikov for Leto. 3 Faces, a film about an actress searching Iran for a girl desperate to leave her conservative family, is the fourth film by Panahi, a Cannes regular. Panahi has been kept from leaving Iran since 2010 after being charged with creating anti-Iranian propaganda. Leto, a film about the underground rock scene in the 1980s in Russia, is one of many films by Serebrennikov that subtly addresses censorship and suppression. Serebrennikov was arrested last year on charges of embezzlement, though many believe this to truly be a political statement by the Russian government to dissuade artists and others from criticizing the powers that be.

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Both films are in competition for the festival’s coveted Palme d’Or, and a win for either could be a powerful statement to the world, particularly since it would likely be accompanied by widespread distribution internationally. But for now, even the showing of these films, despite all odds, is a win for the directors who suffered so much to make them.