Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi ("The Circle," "Offside," "The White Balloon") has been sentenced to six years in prison in addition to a year twenty year ban from making any films, writing any scripts, travelling abroad and conducting interviews. The news was confirmed to the Iranian press by his lawyer Farideh Gheyrat who plans to appeal the decision.

In July 2009, Panahi was arrested after joining a public mourning for protesters killed during demonstrations in the wake of the disputed election results in the country. He was released, but barred from leaving the country and was re-arrested earlier this year. His incarceration prevented him from attending this year's Cannes Film Festival where he was invited to sit as a jury member. And while Panahi's plight had previously caught the attention and support of Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Juliette Binoche it's clear that the Iranian government will pretty much do whatever it wants.

This is certainly distressing news and a reminder that filmmaking and artistic expression come with a far higher price and risk in other parts of the world. Our thoughts are with Panahi and his family at this time and we hope justice is eventually delivered in this case. "This is a catastrophe for Iran's cinema," said Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies at Columbia University. "Panahi is now exactly in the most creative phase of his life and by silencing him at this sensitive time, they are killing his art and talent." [The Guardian]