Iranian women take center stage at the Sundance film festival

Movies by and about Iranian women took center stage at the Sundance film festival this weekend, as diaspora filmmakers reflected on female-led protests and the deadly

challenges of censorship and resistance in their ancestral home. "Joonam," a documentary about a three-generation family of Iranian women now living in Vermont, and "The

Persian Version," a colorful but candid dramedy which hops between Iran and New York over several decades, received world premieres on Saturday. "Shayda," a drama directed

by Noora Niasari about a Persian woman who flees her abusive husband in Australia, debuted earlier at the high-profile independent film festival in Utah. Their inclusion in

Sundance's line-up follows four months of mass demonstrations in Iran, triggered by anger over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest for violating the Islamic

republic's strict dress rules. At least 481 people have been killed in the crackdown and at least 109 others are facing execution in protest-related cases, in addition to

the four already put to death, according to NGO Iran Human Rights. The protesters "are literally putting themselves on the line... I stand in support with them 100 percent,"

said "Joonam" director Sierra Urich. "You can't speak freely in Iran, they're imprisoning filmmakers and imprisoning artists," Urich told AFP. "I can speak freely

outside of Iran -- to an extent." Iran has arrested a number of celebrities from the country's film industry in connection with the protest movement. Renowned director Jafar

Panahi has been in prison six months following an earlier conviction for "propaganda against the system."