Born on July 11, 1960 in Mianeh, Iran, he is an Iranian film director, screenwriter and editor. After several years directing short films and working as an assistant director to his compatriot Abbas Kiarostami, Panahi obtained international recognition with his first feature film in 1995. “The White Balloon” (Badkonak Sefid). The film won the Camera d’Or, the first major award for an Iranian film, at the Cannes Film Festival the same year.
At age twenty, Panahi was drafted into the Iranian military and served in the Iran-Iraq war. He worked as an army cinematographer from 1980 to 1982. In 1981, he was captured by Kurdish rebels fighting Iranian troops and spent 76 days in captivity. Based on his war experiences, he made a documentary about the war that was broadcast on television. After completing his military service, Panahi enrolled in the Tehran Higher School of Film and Television.
In 1992, Panahi made his first narrative short film, “Friend” (Doust), which is a tribute to Kiarostami’s first short film, “The Bread and Alley” (Nan va Kucheh), from 1970. That same year, Panahi directed his second Narrative short film, “The Last Exam” (Akharin Emtehan). Both films starred non-professional actors and won the awards for best film, best screenplay, best cinematography and best montage at the Iran National Television Festival in 1992. Panahi quickly became one of the most successful filmmakers. influential people from Iran. He is known for his humanistic approach to life in Iran, often focusing on the plight of children, the poor, and women. Although some of his films are banned in his home country, he has continued to receive international critical acclaim and has won numerous awards, including the Locarno International Film Festival’s Golden Leopard for “The Mirror” (Ayeneh) in 1997, the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for “The Circle” (Dayereh), 2000, the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for “Crimson Gold” (Talaye Sorkh), 2003, the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Festival in Berlin for “Offside”, 2006, and the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for “Taxi Tehran”, 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 with his wife, daughter and 15 guests who were staying with them. He was then accused of propaganda against the Iranian government. Despite all the support he received from filmmakers, film and human rights organizations around the world, Panahi was sentenced in December 2010 to six years in prison and prohibited from participating in any form of film production for 20 years. In 2011, he directed “This is not a movie”, a documentary feature film in the form of a daily video. In February 2013, the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival screened in competition “Pardé”, by Panahi and Kambuzia Partovi; Panahi won the Silver Bear for best screenplay.