Mohsen Makhmalbaf

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Mohsen Makhmalbāf
Mohsen makhmalbaf.jpg
Born (1957-05-29) May 29, 1957 (age 57)
Tehran, Iran
Years active 1981–present
Awards Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Beirut

Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Persian: محسن مخملباف‎, Mohsen Makhmalbaaf; born May 29, 1957) is an Iranian film director, writer, film editor, and producer. He has made more than 20 feature films, won some 50 awards and been a jury in more than 15 major film festivals. His award-winning films include Kandahar, and his latest film is the The Gardener.

Makhmalbaf's films have been widely presented at international film festivals in the past ten years. The director belongs to the new wave movement of Iranian cinema. Time selected Makhmalbaf's 2001 film Kandahar as one of the top 100 films of all time.[1] In 2006, he was a member of the Jury at the Venice Film Festival.

Makhmalbaf left Iran in 2005 shortly after the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and has lived in Paris since the events of the 2009 Iranian presidential election.[2]


Makhmalbaf (childhood)

Makhmalbaf is a major figure in Iranian cinema. His films have explored the relationship between the individual and a larger social and political environment. As a result, his work serves as an extended commentary on the historical progression of the Iranian state and its people. Makhmalbaf has worked in several genres, from realist films to fantasy and surrealism, minimalism, and large frescoes of everyday life, with a predilection (common to Iranian directors) for the themes of childhood and cinema.[3]

In 1981 he wrote the screenplay for Towjeeh, directed by Manuchehr Haghaniparast. In 1982 he wrote the screenplay for Marg Deegari, directed by Mohammad-Reza Honarmand. He made his first film, Tobeh Nosuh, in 1983, and Boycott, a film set in pre-revolutionary Iran, in 1985. The latter tells the story of Valeh (Majid Majidi), a young man sentenced to death for Communist tendencies, and is widely believed to be based on Makhmalbaf's own experiences.

Makhmalbaf portrays human despair, exploitation, and resilience in The Cyclist (1987),[4] a movie about Nasim, a poor Afghan refugee in Iran in desperate need of money for his ailing wife. Nasim agrees to ride a bicycle in a small circle for one week straight in return for the money he needs to pay his wife's medical bills.

Time of Love (1991) is Makhmalbaf's ninth feature film and the first film of what he calls his "third period".[5] It is a romantic trilogy that offers three variations of the same story.[6]

Hana, Marzieh and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, receiving the Cyclo d'Or at the Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema in 2009

Makhmalbaf directed Gabbeh in 1996. The film follows the nomadic Ghashghai people, whose bright, bold carpets tell stories. The main thread features a young woman who loves a mysterious stranger but is forbidden to marry him. The film is romantic and non-realistic, with events seeming to leap around in time and space, much like a dream.[7]

Makhmalbaf took time off from directing in 1996 to form the Makhmalbaf Film House, a school for young filmmakers. It quickly became a private production house for the increasing number of filmmakers in his family. In 1997 his 17-year-old daughter Samira directed The Apple, using him as a scriptwriter and editor. Makhmalbaf's wife, Marziyeh Meshkini, worked as assistant director to her daughter and then took up directing herself.[8]

Kandahar (2001) is a fictional odyssey inspired by a true story set in Afghanistan before the September 11 attacks, as the Taliban's laws strip women of civil rights and hope and a Western-cultured Afghan woman returns to prevent her sister's suicide during the last eclipse of the 20th century.[9]

Degrees and honors[edit]

  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature from St Andrews University, Scotland, 2011
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Cinema from Nanterre University, France, 2010
  • "Freedom to Create Prize" for his human right activity and promoting social Justice through his art, Art Action, England, 2009
  • Federico Fellini Honor" from UNESCO in Paris, 2001 (France)
  • A Moment of Innocence: Among Top Ten Films of the Decade – Awarded by International Festival Directors and Critics 1999.
  • Mohsen Makhmalbaf: Selected as the best filmmaker after the revolution by readers of cinema publications, 1988.


Films banned in Iran

Film appearances



1. The Cyclist: Best Film – Rimini Festival (Italy) 1989.

2. The Cyclist: Best Film – Hawaii Festival (United States) 1991.

3. Once Upon a Time, Cinema: Best Film – Taormina Festival (Italy) 1992.

4. Once Upon a Time, Cinema: Best Film – Karlovy vary Festival (Czechoslovakia) 1992.

5. Once Upon a Time, Cinema: Best Film – Fiprachi Critics – Karlovy vary Festival (Czechoslovakia) 1992.

6.Once Upon a Time, Cinema: Best Director – Karlovy vary Festival (Czechoslovakia) 1992.

7. Once Upon a Time, Cinema: Special Jury Prize – Istanbul Festival (Turkey) 1993.

8. Collection of Works: Press Award – São Paulo Festival (Brazil) 1995.

9. Salam Cinema: Best Film – Munich Festival (Germany) 1996.

10. Gabbeh: Best Artistic Film – Tokyo Festival (Japan) 1996.

11. Gabbeh: One of 10 selected films by critics – Times (USA) 1996.

12. Gabbeh: Best Director – Sitges Festival (Spain) 1996.

13. Gabbeh: Special Critics Award – Sitges Festival (Spain) 1996.

14. Gabbeh: Best Asian Feature Film – Singapore Festival (Singapore) 1997.

15. A Moment of Innocence: Special Jury Award – Locarno Festival (Switzerland) 1996.

16. A Moment of Innocence: Youth Golden Award – Locarno Festival (Switzerland) 1996.

17. A Moment of Innocence: Among Top Ten Films of the Decade – Awarded by International Festival Directors and Critics 1999.

18. Silence: Golden Prize of Italian Parliament – Venice Festival (Italy) 1997.

19. Silence: Human, Art and Nature Award – Venice Festival (Italy) 1997.

20. Collection of Works: “Ville d'yssingeaux”, France 1998.

21. Marshall of Art and Literature, (France) 1998.

22. Kandahar: Grand prize from Society of churches of world, Cannes 2001 (France)

23. Kandahar: “Federico Fillini Honor” from UNESCO in Paris, 2001 (France)

24. Kandahar: The best movie from Ajaccio Film Festival, (France) 2001

25. Kandahar: "Public Prize" from Festival des Cinemas du Sud, (France) 2001

26. Kandahar:"Best Director Award" from Riga International Film Forum Arsenals, Latvia 2002

27. Thessaloniki 4th festival, Honorary Humanitarian Award (Greece) 2002

28. Collection of Works: “François Truffaut prize”, Giffoni Film Festival in Italy 2002.

29. The Afghan Alphabet:"Best Film Award"from Document ART International Film Festival, (Germany) 2002.

30. The 2003 Asian Filmmaker Award from Pusan Film Festival, (South Korea) 2003.

31. One Of "The Best Hundred Films" Of History Of Cinema, Chosen By Times, (USA), 2005

32. Kandahar: "Best Film" Fiprachi Critics From Thessaloniki (Greece) 2001

33. Sex & Philosophy, Tica Film Mediale International Film Festival, Italy, 2005

34. Sergei Parajanov Awards for outstanding Artistic contribution to the world cinema, Yerevan Film Festival, Armenia, 2006

35. "Clermont-Ferrand Medallion", the city medallion granted to the legendary Mohsen Makhmalbaf, France, 2006.

36. Jury Special Mention Award for "Scream of the Ants" and lifetime achievement as a filmmaker, The Granada Film Festival CINES DEL SUR, Spain, 2007

37. "Golden Stag" award for lifetime achievement through his works and career as an outstanding artist, 37th Kyve (Molodist) International Film Festival, Ukraine 2007

38. "Alhambra" award for his artistic and humanitarian films, CINES DEL SUR International Film Festival, Spain, 2008

39- "Golden Dinosaur" award for establishment of Makhmalbaf film school ETIUDA&ANIMA International Film Festival, Poland, 2008

40- "Grand Human Right award" for his lifetime achievement and activity for human right through his art and actions from Nuremberg Human Right Film Festival, Germany, 2009

41- "Freedom to Create Prize" for his human right activity and promoting social Justice through his art, Art Action, England, 2009

44- "Special Award for a life time activity for human right through art and cinema" São Paulo Festival (Brazil) 2011

45- Golden Award for "The Gardener", from Beirut International Film Festival, Lebanon, 2012

National (Iran)[edit]

1. The Cyclist: Best Screenplay – Fajr Film Festival, 1988.

2. The Cyclist: Best Director – Fajr Film Festival, 1988.

3. The Cyclist: Set Design – Fajr Film Festival, 1988.

4. The Cyclist: Iranian Critics Award, 1990.

5. Marriage of The Blessed: Iranian Critics Award, 1990.

6. Once Upon a Time, Cinema: Best Editing – Fajr Film Festival, 1991.

As jury[edit]

1- Locarno International Film Festival (Switzerland) 1994.

2- São Paulo International Film Festival(Brazil) 1995.

3- Torino International Film Festival (Italy) 1996.

4- Taormina International Film Festival (Italy) 1998.

5- Pusan International Film Festival (South Korea)1998.

6- Bahrein International Film Festival (Bahrain) 2000.

7- Singapore International Film Festival (Singapore) 2000.

8- Kerala International Film Festival (India) 2001.

9- Osian's – Cinefan (India) 2004.

10- Dushanbe International Film Festival (Tajikistan) 2004.

11- Clermont-ferrand International Film Festival (France) 2006.

12- Venice International Film Festival (Italy) 2006.

13- Europe Asia International Film Festival (Kazakhstan) 2006.

14- HEAD OF JURY: Molodist International Film Festival (Ukraine) 2007

15- Etiuda & Anima International Film Festival (Poland) 2008

16- Head of Jury: Tbilisi International Film Festival (Georgia) 2012.

Books on Makhmalbaf[edit]

  • Hamid Dabashi, Close Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present and Future. (Chapter on Makhmalbaf). Verso, 2001.[10]
  • Hamid Dabashi, Like Light from the Heart of Darkness. Sakuhinsha, Japan, 2004.[11]
  • Hamid Dabashi, Masters & Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema: (Chapter XI: Mohsen Makhmalbaf: A Moment of Innocence. pp. 325–368). Mage Publishers, 2007. ISBN 0-934211-85-X.[12]
  • Hamid Dabashi, Makhmalbaf at Large: The Making of a Rebel Filmmaker. I. B. Tauris, 2007. [2]
  • .The Peddler: (Director’s interview, Screenplay, Reviews, and Study) Compiled by Ebrahim Nabavi, 1989.
  • Salam Cinema: (Screenplay, Interviews, Reviews, and Study) Compiled by Amir Khosravi, 1996.
  • . Gabbeh: (Photographs with along Screenplay) Photography by: Mohammad Ahmadi, 1996.
  • . Silence: (Photographs with along Screenplay) Photography by: Maysam Makhmalbaf, 1998.
  • . Mohsen Makhmalbaf: (Review and Study) Compiled by: Alberto Barbara (in Italian), 1996.
  • . Makhmalbaf’s Broken Mirrors: (Review and Study) Compiled by: Lyrid Dijeon (in English), 2000.
  • . Introducing of Mohsen Makhmalbaf and his works: (Review and Study) Compiled by: Baharlou, 1995 (second print: 1998).
  • . "Salaam Cinema, Films of Makhmalbaf Family" by Pusan International Film Festival, 2000.
  • . "The Films Of Makhmalbaf (Cinema, Politics & culture In Iran)" by: Eric Egan, 2005.
  • . " Makhmalbaf at Large" (Review and Study) by: Hamid Dabashi, 2008.
  • . "Mohsen Makhmalbaf: From Discourse to Dialogue" (Review and Study) by: Fernando González García, 2008.

Books by Makhmalbaf[edit]

  • Disgrace
  • Two Blind Eyes
  • The Sultan's Lake
  • The Crystal Graden
  • Death of Another
  • Divine Arrow
  • The Martyred Sheikh
  • The Dumb Man's Dream First Volume
  • The Dumb Man's Dream Second Volume
  • The Dumb Man's Dream Third Volume
  • Life is Color
  • Introduction on Islamic Art
  • Notes about Storywriting and Playwriting
  • The Budhha was not demolished in Afghanistan, it collapsed out of shame
  • The Bells
  • Mother
  • Legitimate Parliament
  • Rajayi's School
  • Birth of an Old Woman
  • The Cyclist
  • Marriage of the Blessed
  • Time of Love
  • Hail the Sun
  • Bread and the Vase
  • The Apple
  • Travel To Kandehar
  • To see and not to see

Films about Makhmalbaf[edit]

  • The Closed Eyes of Mohsen
  • Close up, by Abbas Kiarostami, 1990
  • Friendly Persuasion: Iranian Cinema After the Revolution
  • Cinema Is Nation's Language
  • The Dumb Man's Dream
  • Who's Who?
  • Salam Cinema (German)"
  • Cinema Is Nation's Language (Tadjik)"

Retrospective of works[edit]

  • 1. Iranian Film Festivals (France) 1989.
  • 2. Rotterdam Festival (The Netherlands) 1989.
  • 3. Hong Kong Festival (Hong Kong) 1991.
  • 4. Bonn Cinémathèque (Germany) 1991.
  • 5. La Rochelle Festival (France) 1991.
  • 6. Thessaloniki Festival (Greece) 1995.
  • 7. São Paulo Festival (Brazil) 1995.
  • 8. Istanbul Festival (Turkey) 1996.
  • 9. Turin Festival (Italy) 1996.
  • 10. Singapore Festival (Singapore) 1996.
  • 11. Chicago Festival (USA) 1996.
  • 12. Beirut Festival (Lebanon) 1996.
  • 13. India Festival (India) 1997.
  • 14. Tokyo Festival (Japan) 1997.
  • 15. The Netherlands Cinémathèque (The Netherlands) 1997.
  • 16. Vienna Festival (Austria) 1997.
  • 17. Cleveland Cinémathèque (USA) 1997.
  • 18. UCLA (USA) 1997.
  • 19. New York Museum of Modern Art (USA) 1997.
  • 20. Boston Museum of Modern Arts (USA) 1997.
  • 21. Pacific Archives in Berkeley (USA) 1997.
  • 22. Vancouver Cinémathèque (Canada) 1997.
  • 23. Toronto Cinémathèque (Canada) 1997.
  • 24. Ontario Cinémathèque (Canada) 1997.
  • 25. Montréal Cinémathèque (Canada) 1997.
  • 26. Madras, Banglore, Viji Vada, Hyderabad, India 2001
  • 27. Dhaka, Bangladesh 2002
  • 28. Bosnia, 2002
  • 29. Bulgaria, 2002
  • 30. Munich International Film Festival, Germany 2006
  • 31. Cine Del Sur International Film Festival, Spain 2008

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "All-Time 100 Movies". Time. February 12, 2005. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  2. ^ Guardian 2009 article
  3. ^ La Biennale di Venezia
  4. ^ Mohsen Makhmalbaf
  5. ^ MacFarquhar, Neil (June 8, 1997). "1997 New York Times article describing the four periods into which Makhmalbaf divides his work.". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Combustible Celluloid film review – Gabbeh (1996), Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Shaghayegh Djodat, Hossein Moharami, dvd review
  8. ^ Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson , ed. Film History. 3rd. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. 610. Print.
  9. ^ Axmaker, Sean (October 1, 2002). "Haunting 'Kandahar' a stark, surreal odyssey". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 
  10. ^ Hamid Habashi. "Close Up: Iranian Cinema". Archived from the original on March 29, 2008. Retrieved September 7, 2010. 
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ "Persian Poetry and Shahnameh Books – Culture of Iran from Mage Publishers". Retrieved September 7, 2010. 

External links[edit]