Babak Payami was born in Tehran in 1966. He grew up in Iran before leaving for Europe and subsequently Canada where he became a citizen. He later enrolled in the cinema studies program at the University of Toronto during the early 90s while working as translator and court interpreter. He also ventured in the software world as designer/developer of industrial & manufacturing solutions.
In 1998 Payami returned to Iran where he wrote, produced and directed his debut feature film "One More Day". It premiered in the official Panorama Special program of the Berlin International Film Festival 2000. He later wrote, directed and co-produced with Marco Mueller, his second feature film "Secret Ballot" which went on to compete in the official program of the Venice International Film Festival in 2001. The film earned him several accolades in Venice including the Best Director award.
In 2002 Payami began production on "Silence Between Two Thoughts" which he wrote, directed and produced in the remote areas of eastern Iran close to the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The film was completed after a difficult 73-day shoot. Payami was eventually arrested by Iranian officials during the editing of the film. All original negative and sound material for Silence Between Two Thoughts was confiscated by the Iranian government and Babak Payami was forced into exile during the summer of 2003. A working copy of the film was salvaged on a hard disk and Payami released a reconstructed version of the film in the official program of the Venice International Film festival.
Since his exile, Payami taught at the Ludwigsburg Film Academy in Germany and conducted numerous workshops in Italy and North America while developing his English language film projects. In late 2007 and until January 2010, he was the creative director of the Media Studio at Fabrica, a United Colors of Benetton Communication Arts research Centre in Northern Italy. During his tenure at Fabrica he produced several projects including "I Am Jesus" directed by Valerie Gudenus and Heloisa Sartorato, "Branding Kosovo" directed by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza.
Since 2006, Payami re-established Payam Films Inc. in Toronto with his partner Charles Wachsberg and began development of several projects including an original story he wrote on Caravaggio titled "Chiaroscuro", his adaptation of a Chingiz Aitmatov book titled "The Eternal Day", "Mina" and "Assassiyun" which he co-wrote with Toronto writer Ian Carpenter. Payam Films has also acquired an original screenplay titled "Manhattan Undying" by American writer Matt Deller which is currently under development.
Among the projects in development, Payami is currently co-directing with Michele Fuzellier, a French-Italian-Canadian animated feature film "The Story of a Fearless Child" slated for release in late 2013.
In 2010 he established Payam Entertainment as a result of recent collaborations with Iranian musician, composer and performer Mohsen Namjoo. Payami produced several concerts for Namjoo at the Los Angeles Disney Hall, Toronto Sony Centre and the Milan Conservatory and Namjoo's albums "OY" in 2009 (a Fabrica Production), "Useless Kisses" in 2010 (A Payam Ent. Inc. Production) and "Alaki" in 2011 (A Payam Ent. Inc. Production) and "OY Live in Milan DVD" (A Fabrica/Payam Ent. Inc. co-production).
Awards and honors
- Best Artistic Contribution, Tokyo Film Festival, 2000
- Special Jury Award (One More Day), Torino Film Festival, 2000
- Best Director, Venice Film Festival, 2001
- OCIC Award (Secret Ballot), Venice, 2001
- Pasinetti Award (Secret Ballot), Venice, 2001
- UNICEF Award (Secret Ballot), Venice, 2001
- NETPAC Award (Secret Ballot), Venice, 2001
- Best Director, Valladolid Film Festival, 2001
- FIPRESCI Prize, Special Mention, London Film Festival, 2001
- Best Feature (Secret Ballot), Newport Film Festival, 2002
- FIPRESCI Prize, Tromsø Film Festival, 2003