January 20, 2011. LONDON- Spurred to action by the recent imprisonment and filmmaking ban imposed upon two pro-democracy Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, a new human rights organization and film foundation is offering a revolutionary way for the world to protest human rights abuses.
The new web and smartphone application developed by Particle at the request of Cine Foundation International is called WHITE MEADOWS (dubbed after a film by Rasoulof) and scheduled to deploy this week will allow anyone in the world to record a short video statement about Panahi and Rasoulof. There will be an ESCAPE button at top, allowing quick exit for those in countries where recording a statement would be dangerous. There will an option to have the screen black, and soon, voice distortion. The video statements will be recorded as mp4s, giving them maximum transmedia capacity, which essentially makes them broadcastable from any device that can show video.
Tobias Morgan, one of the founders of Cine Foundation International notes, " The purpose of the mechanism is meant to have a broader use in the future. While we created it with Particle to specifically address the situation with Panahi and Rasoulof in Iran, and to offer the world another way to condemn this in a way that is more empowering, and we feel more effective than simply adding a name to a petition- we also plan for WHITE MEADOWS to be used by people for addressing other human rights issues as they arise. Future projects using this mechanism include a campaign for women's rights in the Middle East and one to highlight the plight of street children globally. People can use WHITE MEADOWS not only to make a video statement in support of human rights, but also to share their own experiences. We then will make the videos accessible through our website and through other social and media networks. Soon we will add a feature that allows for live broadcast as well."
The WHITE MEADOWS application is one part of a campaign that Cine Foundation International has launched in support of Panahi and Rasoulof. The other, FOR JAFAR PANAHI AND MOHAMMAD RASOULOF, is a campaign of protest films calling for the release of the filmmakers and to highlight human rights issues in Iran, and parallel situations in the world. The campaign will be spearheaded by 6 commissioned feature-length films and 20 short films, examining a global relationship to ideas of nation,self, other, identity, material culture, spiritual culture, imprisonment, censorship, regime, protest and human rights. The number of films corresponds with the sentence imposed on the filmmakers: six years imprisonment and a twenty-year ban of filmmaking for each. Films are already in development for the campaign and seeking funds to begin shooting, including a new film by award-winner Nina Menkes called HEATSTROKE, which has Gus Van Sant attached as executive producer.
On discussing the projects, Jesse Richards, another of the founders of CFI says: "There has been a sickness growing in the world that needs to be cured; and one of the ways in which it has manifested itself is in the fraudulent Iranian government' s imprisonment of filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. It is a sickness of forced ideology, a sickness of punishing people for trying to bring people together. People can not be punished for helping people any longer- and it is everyone' s responsibility to drop what the hell we are doing and stand up to this. What is being attacked here is a culture' s ability to express itself honestly, and its people to be able to maintain liberty while doing so. What Jafar and Mohammad are experiencing is what any artist in Iran (or with family in Iran) is under the threat of. If the fascist leadership in Iran wants to silence its cinema, to silence free expression, the world must respond with cinema- with free expression. That is the only way to do this. The time has come for a new humanitarian movement in cinema" .
Lav Diaz, award-winning filmmaker and Guggenheim fellow, who sits on the Board of Directors and has offered his next film to the project says, "The fate of Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof bespeaks of the fate of cinema, especially its role on issues concerning culture and politics. If we, the filmmakers, cannot liberate Jafar and Mohammad, in as much as the sentence given to them concerns cinema's role in a society, then cinema's relevance to our time is in peril. The Iranian fascist regime clearly sees the filmmaker as a dangerous element in its midst. More than just a wake up call, any serious filmmaker must start questioning his praxis amid persecutions. I think it would not be overbearing to say that Iran's struggle is cinema's struggle now".
Filmmaker Bela Tarr, who also sits on the Board of Directors of Cine Foundation International, is premiering his new film The Turin Horse at Berlinale next month and will also be taking part on a special panel there to discuss the imprisonment of Panahi and issues of censorship. Others who have lent their names in support of CFI' s campaign include filmmakers Fred Kelemen, Aki Kaurismaki and the founder of Senses of Cinema, Bill Mousoulis. Other filmmakers are in talks for contributing new work, with an emphasis on filmmakers that have experienced political or cultural persecution.
Cine Foundation International was founded in December 2010 by two young filmmakers and a critic, Tobias Morgan, Jesse Richards and Blue Un Sok Kim with the stated mission ' to empower open consciousness through cinema' . WHITE MEADOWS / FOR JAFAR PANAHI AND MOHAMMAD RASOULOF marks the first two projects of the foundation. Other filmmakers are in talks for contributing new work, with an emphasis on filmmakers that have experienced political or cultural persecution.###
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