N. Jayaram writes from Hong Kong:
I hope film personalities and writers attending the 34th HKIFF under way since Sunday (March 21 Over 100 screenings at film fest sold out) will voice solidarity with Jafar Panahi, the renowned Iranian director, now jailed in Tehran. His films, including The White Balloon, The Circle, Crimson Gold and Offside, proved most popular with HKIFF audiences over the past decade. He has taken top prizes in prestigious film festivals, including in Cannes, Berlin and Venice.
Mr Panahi, under arrest since March 1 without any charges, attended the festival twice – in 2001 and 2007– and has a large number of fans in Iran and abroad, including in Hong Kong, among film buffs. His incarceration has spread over Navroz, the Iranian new year, which began on March 21.
The irrepressible director has not only been a thorn in the side of his country's authoritarian rulers but has criticized China and the United States for having sought to bar entry to him. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime has been hounding not only dissidents but even prominent film-makers. Of the most famous directors, Mohsen Makhmalbaf has already left Iran. The films of Abbas Kiarostami are no longer being shown in his own country.
Human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran have called for Mr Panahi's immediate release, as have some Western governments. The European Film Academy, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, the International Film Festival Rotterdam and the Toronto Film Critics Association have joined in condemning the Tehran regime and calling for his release.
Film personalities and critics attending HKIFF owe it to themselves and to a star director to take a stand against the persecution of filmmakers everywhere in the world, including in Asia.