Jafar Panahi, born 11 July 1960 in Mianeh, Iran, is an Iranian film director, screenwriter and film editor. After several years of making short films and working as an assistant director for fellow Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, Panahi achieved international recognition with his feature film debut in 1995, The White Balloon (Badkonake Sefid). The film won the Caméra d'Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, the first major award won by an Iranian film at Cannes.
At the age of twenty Panahi was conscripted into the Iranian army and served in the Iran–Iraq War. He worked as an army cinematographer from 1980 until 1982. In 1981, he was captured by the Kurdish rebels who were fighting Iranian troops, and spent 76 days in captivity. From his war experiences he made a documentary about the war that was eventually shown on TV. After completing his military service, Panahi enrolled at the College of Cinema and TV in Tehran.
In 1992, Panahi made his first narrative short film The Friend (Doust), which was homage to Kiarostami’s first short film The Bread and Alley (Nan va Koucheh), 1970. That same year Panahi made his second narrative short, The Final Exam (Akharin Emtehan). Both films starred non-professional actors and won awards for Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing at Iran's National TV Festival in 1992.
Panahi was quickly recognized as one of the most influential filmmakers in Iran. His is known for his humanistic approach to life in Iran, often focusing on the hardships of children, the impoverished, and women. Though his films were often banned in his own country, Iran, he continued to receive international acclaim from film critics and won numerous awards, including the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival for The Mirror (Ayeneh), 1997, the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for The Circle (Dayereh), 2000, the Prix du Jury at Cannes Film Festival for Crimson Gold (Talaye Sorkh), 2003, the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival for Offside, 2006, and Golden Bear at Berlin Film Festival for Taxi, 2015.
Solmaz Panahi accepting the Golden Bear on behalf of his father, Jafar Panahi, at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2015
After several years of conflict with the Iranian authorities over the content of his films, as well as several short-term arrests, finally in March 2010, Panahi was arrested along with his wife, daughter and fifteen guests who happened to be at their home. He was later charged with propaganda against the Iranian government. Despite all the support he received from filmmakers, film organizations, and human rights organizations from around the world, in December 2010 Panahi was sentenced to a six-year imprisonment and a 20-year ban from involvement in any form of filmmaking activities. He also was banned from giving any form of interview to domestic or foreign media, and traveling abroad, except for medical treatment or going to Hajj pilgrimage. Whilst awaiting the result of an appeal he made This Is Not a Film, in 2011, a documentary feature in the form of a video diary. It was smuggled out of Iran and shown at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. In February 2013 the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival showed Closed Curtain (Pardé) by Panahi and Kambuzia Partovi in competition; Panahi won the Silver Bear for Best Script.
On the 15th October, 2011, a court in Tehran upheld Panahi's sentence and ban. Following the courts decision, Panahi was placed under house arrest. He has since been allowed to move more freely but he cannot travel outside Iran.
Panahi's film of Taxi, 2015, premiered in competition at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival and was awarded the Golden Bear for the film. His daughter, Solmaz, accepted the Golden Bear, as he was banned by Iranian court to travel abroad and attend the ceremony.
2015 - Taxi, Golden Bear, 65th Berlin International Film Festival
2014 - Flower, Academy Film Fund grant, Motion Picture Association
2013 - Closed Curtain, Silver Bear for Screenwriting, Berlin International Film Festival
2012 - Sakharov Prize, The European Parliament
2011 - This Is Not a Film, Special Jury Prize, Passion For Freedom London Festival
2011 - This Is Not a Film, Carrosse d'Or, Cannes Film Festival
2007 - for his life-time artistic accomplishments, Pudú Award, Valdivia International Film Festival
2006 - Offside, Silver Bear - Jury Grand Prix, Berlin Film Festival
2003 - Crimson Gold, Prix du Jury – Un Certain Regard, Cannes Film Festival
2000 - The Circle, Golden Lion, Venice International Film Festival
1997 - The Mirror, Golden Leopard, Locarno International Film Festival
1995 - The White Balloon, Prix de la Caméra d'Or, Cannes Film Festival