At Cannes, Iranian Director Rasoulof Recalls Difficult Exile Decision

Cast member Setareh Maleki and director Mohammad Rasoulof attend a press conference for "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" (Les Graines du figuier sauvage) in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Cast member Setareh Maleki and director Mohammad Rasoulof attend a press conference for "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" (Les Graines du figuier sauvage) in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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At Cannes, Iranian Director Rasoulof Recalls Difficult Exile Decision

Cast member Setareh Maleki and director Mohammad Rasoulof attend a press conference for "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" (Les Graines du figuier sauvage) in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Cast member Setareh Maleki and director Mohammad Rasoulof attend a press conference for "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" (Les Graines du figuier sauvage) in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof recalled how he had to decide within hours whether to go into exile or serve a prison sentence, saying it was still difficult to talk about it during a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.

Rasoulof was in the French Riviera town for the premiere of his new drama "The Seed of the Sacred Fig", almost two weeks after announcing he had fled Iran and entered into exile in the wake of his sentencing to eight years in jail and flogging.

After he learned that he had a week left before his sentence would be implemented, things moved quickly, he said, especially as authorities had caught wind of the existence of his new film, Reuters reported.

"I had to say to myself, well, do I want to be in prison, or should I leave Iran, geographic Iran, and join the cultural Iran that exists beyond its borders?" recalled the director.

"It took me two hours to take the decision. I walked around, I paced around my house. I said goodbye to my plants that I love, and I have many, many plants in my house," he added.

Then, Rasoulof left all his belongings and walked out of the house. "It's not an easy decision to take. It still isn't easy even to talk about it today with you," he told journalists.

Iran's culture minister Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili told state media this month that Rasoulof's film had been made illegally and there would be a crackdown on movies without permits.

"The Seed of the Sacred Fig" is about a court official who grows increasingly controlling of his family during the 2022 protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman arrested by the morality police for allegedly flouting dress codes.

The film drew the longest standing ovation at the festival after its premiere on Friday night and was well received by critics who called it "mesmerizingly gripping" and "shattering".

The director, who has been arrested and detained several times for charges ranging from filming without a permit to "collusion against national security", said that the idea for the film came from years of confrontation with secret services.

"All these characters were inspired by real people, all the scenes come from real situations," he said, adding that experience has also made him adept at avoiding secret services.

"Our life is fairly similar to that of gangsters, except we are gangsters of the cinema," he joked at the news conference.



Taylor Swift Poses with Prince William after 'Splendid' London Concert

Taylor Swift attends a premiere for Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour in Los Angeles, California, US, October 11, 2023. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Taylor Swift attends a premiere for Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour in Los Angeles, California, US, October 11, 2023. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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Taylor Swift Poses with Prince William after 'Splendid' London Concert

Taylor Swift attends a premiere for Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour in Los Angeles, California, US, October 11, 2023. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Taylor Swift attends a premiere for Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour in Los Angeles, California, US, October 11, 2023. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

Britain's Prince William posed for a photo with US music star Taylor Swift and two of his children, Charlotte and George, at the first night of Swift's Eras tour in London on Friday.

A photo posted on Kensington Palace's X social media feed with the caption "Thank you @taylorswift13 for a great evening!" showed William smiling as Swift took a selfie with him and the children. William celebrated his 42nd birthday on Friday, according to Reuters.

Swift also posted a different photo of her with the royals and her partner Travis Kelce with the message: "Happy Bday M8! London shows are off to a splendid start".

Ahead of the first of her eight shows at London's Wembley Stadium, the city published a special version of its distinctive London Underground map to mark the occasion, and the "Changing of the Guard" ceremony at Buckingham Palace featured a military band rendition of one of her songs.