Iranian actress Marzieh Vafamehr was sentenced to one year in prison and 90 lashes on Saturday. Her crime? She appeared in an Australian film My Tehran for Sale which is critical of the oppressive way of life in Iran.
She and another Iranian filmmaker were both arrested in July when copies of the black-market movie began to circulate throughout the country. The actress appears in the movie with a shaved head and without a headscarf. Secretly filmed inside Iran with a local crew in 2008, it premiered at the Adelaide Festival two years ago.
The film's Melbourne-based director, Iranian-Australian Granaz Moussavi said although the film is a work of fiction, she drew on her own experiences and those of others she met as an interpreter at the Woomera Detention Centre.
The central character is Marzieh, an actress isolated from her family and working secretly on a politically sensitive performance piece. At an underground rave dance party, she meets Iranian-born Saman, now an Australian citizen who offers her an alternative way of life.
Katrina Sedgwick, director of the Adelaide Festival, said they helped Moussavi with the film and donated $125,000 towards production costs. So far, the Iranian Embassy in Canberra has refused to comment.