* Asghar Farhadi’s movie opened Cannes festival on Tuesday
* Makes last-minute plea to lift Jafar Panahi’s travel ban
* Two Iranian-directed films compete for Palme d’Or
By Robin Pomeroy
CANNES, France, May 9 (Reuters) - The double-Oscar winning filmmaker who opened the Cannes Film Festival has made a last-minute plea to Iran to let a fellow Iranian director - who is officially banned from working and travelling - come to the premiere of his own film.
Seated alongside Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, the stars of his new movie, Asghar Farhadi said Iran should allow acclaimed director Jafar Panahi to attend the festival where they both have movies competing for the Palme d’Or.
“I think there’s still time,” he said of getting Panahi to the Saturday premiere of his film “3 Faces”.
“I would like to send this message: I hope the decision will be taken to allow him to come,” Farhadi said at the end of a news conference on his own movie “Everybody Knows” on Wednesday.
Farhadi, who won foreign language Oscars for films made in Iran: “A Separation” and “The Salesman”, is free to come and go from his home country as he makes films there and in Europe.
But Panahi, who won the Camera d’Or in Cannes in 1995 for his debut “The White Balloon” was arrested after the 2009 protests against the re-election of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and was banned from making films.
Depite that, he has continued working under the radar, starting with “This Is Not a Film”, shot in his Tehran apartment on a mobile phone, and more recently “Taxi” in which he plays himself as a film director now working as a taxi driver - winning the Golden Bear for best film at the Berlin film festival in 2015.
“It’s wonderful that he has continued his work in such adversity,” Farhadi told reporters.
“It’s a very strange feeling for me to be able to be here but not him. It’s something I have difficulty living with.”
The gala screening of “Everybody Knows” on Tuesday evening coincided with U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he was pulling of the 2015 nuclear deal - delivering a bitter-sweet moment for Iranians.
“It was a very strange moment, to have come out of the film and have all the emotions about how good or bad the film was and also the real, real worries that we have about the future of our country,” said Arash Azizi, a New-York based Iranian movie critic for website IranWire.
“Unfortunately, the reality of the world is that our fate is not being decided not by the Farhadis or other artists but by Trump or (Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei – men in power who represent a very different face of Iranians.”
The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 8 to May 19. (Reporting by Robin Pomeroy, Editing by William Maclean)