CANNES, France: The new film by Iran's Jafar Panahi, who is banned from leaving Iran, has premiered to a standing ovation at the Cannes film festival, with a seat left symbolically empty for the dissident director.
Panahi's children and the cast of "Three Faces", which is vying for the Palme d'Or top prize, were welcomed with thunderous applause as they arrived for the gala screening late Saturday.
The meditative story about the intertwined fate of three Iranian women is one of 21 movies in competition at the world's biggest film festival.
It is the second Iranian work in competition alongside Asghar Farhadi's "Everybody Knows" starring Spanish star couple Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.
Panahi, 57, was banned from making movies and leaving the country after supporting mass protests in 2009 and making a series of films that critiqued the state of modern Iran.
Pleas by Oscar-winning US director Oliver Stone and other supporters to let him travel to Cannes have fallen on deaf ears in Tehran.
But the bans have not stopped Panahi from working in secret and his 2015 picture "Taxi" won the Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival to the consternation of his conservative critics back home.
His new film -- starring Panahi himself and veteran actress Behnaz Jafari -- puts the spotlight on the social and professional problems encountered by Iranian women, especially actresses.
Panahi is one of two Palme d'Or contenders to be barred from attending Cannes this year.
Russia's Kirill Serebrennikov missed Thursday's premiere of his much-praised film "Leto" after being placed under house arrest in Moscow on embezzlement charges his allies claim are political. — AFP