Cannes Film Fest 2018: Iranian Director Farhadi on his Sanish Film, Border Politics, and Allowing Panahi to Travel

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, in press conference today at Cannes Film Fest,  called on Iran’s government to allow fellow director Jafar Panahi to travel to France for the showing of his new film, Three Faces, which screens May 13 in competition.

“I would like to send out this message: I hope the decision would be made to allow him to come,” Farhadi said at the end of a press conference for his new film, Everybody Knows, at which he was joined by its stars, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz.

“I do have great hope he will be able to come so he can see the reaction to his film first-hand,” Farhadi said.  The fact that could travel to Cannes, where Everybody Knows premiered , while Panahi hasn’t “is something I had difficulty living with.”

Panahi, a Golden Camera prize winner at Cannes for his 1995 debut The White Balloon, has been barred from leaving Iran since 2010 after being found guilty of “colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic.” He is placed under house arrest, but has since been allowed to move freely within Iran, while remaining subject to a 20-year travel ban.

Farhadi, who earlier this year spoke out against Trump’s travel ban, did testify to the importance of transcending borders.

His Spanish-language feature, which he shot in Spain, is the second time the director of the Oscar-winning A Separation and The Salesman has worked outside Iran.  Farhadi said: “I believe that contrary to what the media say, human beings are not different depending on the culture. I think we all share common roots, so it’s important to insist on our commonalities.”

He considers his new film, a labor of five years, to be “totally Spanish,” but it also has an “Iranian soul,” because like other Iranian filmmakers he believes the filmmaker should disappear into his work.

Cruz praised Fahradi for his dedication, noting that he moved to Spain for two years and studied the language: “He was living the culture. He was like a sponge.” Bardem noted that the finished film is “even more Spanish than a film made by a Spanish director.”

Farhadi noted that in the extended wedding scene in the first reel, the guests speak both Spanish and Catalan: “As a foreigner, seeing Catalans and Spaniards in the same family seemed self-evident.”

Focus Features has acquired Everybody Knows for the U.S. and other markets. Producer Alexandre Mallet-Guy holds that the film could have “huge potential” among Spanish-speaking audiences in the U.S., and that the Focus buy would “boost” its Oscar potential.

Farhadi hopes that his new film will eventually screen in Iran without urther editing. “My priority is to make films in Iran as much as possible,” he said.