Mohammad Rasoulof, Director Who Fled Iran, Brings a Message of Hope to Cannes

By John Mercury May 26, 2024

While shooting his new film “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” the director Mohammad Rasoulof learned that he was facing eight years in prison for making movies that criticize Iran’s hard-line government.

So Rasoulof fled Iran, made his way to Germany, and then arrived in France this past week for the Cannes Film Festival. After “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” premiered in competition at the festival to strong reviews on Friday night, Rasoulof promised to continue making films that shine a light on the situation in his country.

“The Islamic Republic has taken the Iranian people hostage,” he said at a news conference on Saturday. “It’s very important, then, to talk about this indoctrination.”

Set against a backdrop of student protests in Tehran, “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” follows an investigating judge in the Revolutionary Court in Tehran whose job approving death sentences begins to take a heavy toll on him and his family. The judge’s paranoia is stoked after his gun goes missing, and as he begins to suspect his wife and daughters of conspiring against him, he makes drastic moves to determine who the culprit is.

Rasoulof said the idea for the film had come to him in 2022, when he was imprisoned alongside the director Jafar Panahi for signing a petition that called on Iran’s security forces to use restraint during public protests.

After his release in February 2023, the director began formulating a plan to shoot “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” in a clandestine fashion, with a small crew, so as not to arouse suspicion. “Sometimes people said, ‘There’s someone outside lurking,’ and we would all scatter,” Mahsa Rostami, an actress in the film, said at the news conference. “We just prayed that this project would be followed through to the end.”

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