Manohla Dargis‘s 5.20 N.Y. Times piece (“World Events Rumble at Cannes”) reminded me of a statement made by Certified Copy director Abbas Kiarostami during a press conference for his film, in which he commented about imprisoned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi.

Kiarostami said that explanations were

necessary if the Iranian government continued to imprison Panahi “because he did not understand how a film could be considered a crime.”

Such sentiments always seem strained and almost theatrical to me. Kiarostami surely knows that with a repressive and belligerent government like Iran’s, all notions of what is criminal or legal are entirely subjective and outside the bounds of written law. On top of which all powerful, persuasive art is usually subversive in one way or another, and tends to breed skepticism, and is therefore anti-authoritarian. Which is something that every ugly-thug regime has always understood.

So why ask a rational question about the actions or motives of I’m-a-dinner-jacket and the clerical Al Capones running the show in Tehran?