Escaped Iranian director wraps up wide-open race for Cannes Palme d’Or

The race for the Palme d’Or wound up with a bang on Friday with the screening of escaped Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof’s “The Seed of the Sacred Fig”, adding a geopolitically charged red-carpet appearance to a 77th Cannes Film Festival that has delivered several strong contenders for the top prize but no outright favourite.

Rasoulof’s Cannes premiere came just days after the director’s hair-raising escape from Iran, setting the stage for an unprecedented showdown with the Islamic Republic, which had pressured him to withdraw his film and then sentenced him to jail.

The award-winning director held up pictures of cast members Soheila Golestani and Missagh Zareh, who are still in Iran, as he walked the red carpet accompanied by his daughter Baran and Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, who has lived in exile in France for over a decade. He was greeted with a lengthy standing ovation inside the Grand Théâtre Lumière.

Made underground in Iran on a shoestring budget, “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” tells the story of a judge's struggles amid political unrest in Tehran. FRANCE 24’s culture editor Eve Jackson described the film as “extremely powerful” and her pick for this year’s Palme d’Or.

Ahead of the premiere, the festival’ artistic director Thierry Frémaux said he shared the joy of “all festivalgoers and all freedom-loving Iranians” over the director’s arrival in Cannes.

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