This weekend, Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat, a Sundance Institute Artist Trustee, sat at our annual Board Retreat and described in detail a terrifying situation that is not known well enough by any of us, including the media. As we gather this evening, we stand in solidarity with those recently arrested in Iran’s post-election demonstrations who include some of the most compelling, clear and independent voices of Iran — its artists, journalists, filmmakers and human rights leaders, including some who are part of the Sundance community.
Shirin spoke of torture, and in extreme cases, executions. The situation is urgent. We continue together tonight urging the free American media, in all its forms, to surface the facts and to tell this story to the world and bring attention to these profoundly oppressive actions.
Art and social action have danced powerfully together for generations and I expect will continue to be a force for all of time. Those taken off the streets are the soul of Iranian society. When the press doesn’t cover adequately the issue of their widespread detention, their stories, their voices, their message all run the risk of falling off the radar. Sundance Institute reaches out now to artists everywhere to stand witness until our colleagues, and all detainees, are released.
We have heard that Sundance documentary film program alumni Maziar Bahari was arrested in Iran this week where he was working on a film about the Iranian election. Of Iranian descent, he is a Canadian citizen based in London. His wife is expecting their first child in six months. He was detained without charge and has not been heard from since.
Shadi Sadr is the central character in Women In Shroud — a film supported by the Sundance Documentary Film Program — which follows a dedicated group of Iranian lawyers and activists working together to counter the injustice of the death penalty. The LA Times reports that Shadi was arrested by plainclothes policemen, on her way to Friday prayer in Tehran. Her whereabouts are still unknown.
We stand together tonight as a community raising our voices, to be their voice, for as long as is necessary. As artists and activists we have power to be the light that shines on this situation until the shade is lifted and the voices are once again heard freely.