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Banned Iranian Director Gets Standing Ovation At Cannes Film Festival

Iranian film director Jafar Panahi smiles following his release on bail at his home in Tehran in May 2010.

A new film by Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who is banned from leaving Iran, has premiered to a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival.

Panahi's children and the cast of his film Three Faces were welcomed with thunderous applause as they arrived for the gala screening late on May 12, where one seat was left symbolically empty for the dissident director.

The film, which tells the story of the intertwined fate of three Iranian women, is one of 21 movies vying for the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or.

Starring Panahi himself and veteran actress Behnaz Jafari, the film puts a spotlight on the social and professional problems encountered by Iranian women -- especially actresses.

It is the second Iranian work in competition alongside Asghar Farhadi's Everybody Knows, which was the festival's opening attraction on May 9.

Iranian authorities banned the 57-year-old Panahi from making movies, or from leaving the country, after he supported mass protests in 2009 and made a series of films that critiqued the state of modern Iran.

Authorities in Tehran rejected pleas from Oscar-winning U.S. director Oliver Stone and other supporters to let him travel to Cannes.

But the bans have not stopped Panahi from working in secret.

His 2015 film Taxi won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, an award that upset his conservative critics in Tehran.

Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov also missed the May 10 premiere of his much-praised film Leto (Summer) after being placed under house arrest in Moscow on embezzlement charges.

Serebrennikov's supporters say the charges are politically motivated.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and Variety