Mania Akbari

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Mania Akbari
مانيا اكبري
Portrait art3.JPG
Born (1974-09-22) 22 September 1974 (age 42)
Tehran, Iran
Occupation Director, screenwriter, Actress, writer
Years active 1991–present
Children 1

Mania Akbari (Persian: مانيا اکبری ‎‎, born 1974[1]) is an Iranian filmmaker, actress, artist and writer whose works mostly deal with themes of sexual identity, women, marriage, abortion, infidelity and lesbianism.[2] Her style, unlike the long tradition of melodrama in Iranian cinema, is rooted in modern visual arts and styles. Akbari, because of the themes discussed in her films and her opposition to censorship, is considered as one of the most controversial filmmakers in Iran.[3] As an actress, she is probably best known for her role on Abbas Kiarostami's Ten.[4]


Mania Akbari was born in 1974 in Tehran, Iran. Her artistic activities, as a painter, started in 1991 when she took part in various exhibitions in Iran, as well as abroad.[5]

Later she was exposed to cinema by working as a cinematographer and assistant director in documentary films.[5]

In 2002, Akbari and her son, Amin Maher, and her sister, Roya Akbari appeared in front of Abbas Kiarostami's camera for a documentary called Ten. The following year Akbari directed her debut film, a documentary called Crystal. In 2004, she wrote, acted in and directed her first feature-length film 20 Fingers, which won the best film prize at the Venice Film Festival's Digital Cinema section.[6]

In 2007, Mania Akbari was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her struggle with cancer, as well as illness and body, became one of the key themes of her films and art works.[6]

From 2007 to 2010, Mania Akbari worked on numerous photography-based works that were featured in various galleries around the world, while she kept making documentary and fiction films until 2011, when during production of her latest film, From Tehran to London (originally titled: Women Do Not Have Breasts), members of her crew were arrested by Iranian authorities for filming without official permission. Scared she too might be imprisoned, Akbari fled Tehran for London.[7]

Since her move to London, various international retrospectives of Akbari's films has drawn attention to her cinema, among which retrospectives at the BFI, Oldenburg International Film Festival and the Danish Film Institute are the most notable.[8][9][10]

Film career[edit]

Mania Akbari's first feature-length film, a study of marriage and sexual identity, was 20 Fingers. Her debut film was screened in more than 40 film festivals around the world.[11] [12]

Between the years 2004 to 2007 she made 6 Video Arts titled Self, Repression, Sin, Escape, Fear, and Destruction, which were shown in numerous film festivals such as Locarno Film Festival and exhibited at museums such as Tate Modern.[6]

In 2007, Akbari was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and the film she made on that same year, 10+4, Akbari explores the sensation of living "with both life and death."[2] Akbari calls her second feature film as a sequel of sorts to Kiarostami's Ten. This film was exhibited at numerous festivals such as San Sebastian International Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival in Acid Section.[13] Also this film has been screened in many international museums such as Centre Georges Pompidou[14] and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.[15]

In 2010, Akbari made a documentary about the capital punishment and the execution of Behnoud Shojaee, titled 30 Minutes To 6. Although after the disputed 2009 election the filmmaking conditions in Iran was becoming more closed and controlled, she decided to make her third feature-length film in Iran, titled One. Two. One., which also was exhibited in numerous film festivals around the world since 2011. In the same year, she started working on her next film, originally titled Women Do Not Have Breasts. During the making of this film numerous filmmakers were arrested in Iran, and since the state confined limit of expression contradicted her thoughts and true self and the barred atmosphere distanced her from her mode of expression, she left Iran for London and finished the film in the UK.[1]

In 2014, Akbari made a film titled, "Life Maybe" with British filmmaker Mark Cousins. This film was screened and nominated for best feature film in many film festivals around the world such as Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and Edinburgh International Film Festival.[16] [17]

Little White Lies (magazine) chose Akbari's film title, "One Two One" as 100 great movies by female directors.[18]

Cinematic style[edit]

Mania Akbari's style in filmmaking consists of long takes, hand-held camera and almost painting-like control of color which is called "a cross between fiction and documentary."[2] In an interview, discussing her style, Akbari pointed to "architecture and mise-en-scène within a space" as the most important elements in her filmmaking. "When I’m creating my frame, I really want it so that when each frame is seen the audience can imagine the space surrounding it themselves. The way that I’m creating the mise-en-scène within each frame, I’m trying to, every second, break the theatrical boundaries that people are seeing. In my view, I actually feel that it’s more like performance art than a theatrical performance. It’s as if I create a space for every single character and they come and perform within that space and share something with their audience, and then they leave."[19]

Reception, criticism and controversy[edit]

After a complete retrospective at the BFI Southbank, her work was described as "remarkably fresh, audacious and relevant."[1] Also, after during the BFI season, The Guardian noted that her feature films are "rivetingly human: pitiless, potent studies of domestic strife, and of the fight for happiness – and domination – in sexual relationships."[2]



  • Life May Be (2014) (co-directed with Mark Cousins)
  • From Tehran to London (2012)
  • One. Two. One. (2011)
  • 30 minutes to 6 (2011)
  • 10 + 4 (2007)
  • 20 Fingers (2004)
  • Crystal (2003)

Video arts[edit]

  • I slept with my mother, father, brother and sister in the country called Iran (2012)
  • In My Country Men Have Breasts (2012)
  • Repression (2004)
  • Sin (2004)
  • Escape (2004)
  • Fear (2004)
  • Devastation (2004)


Video Arts[edit]

Art works[edit]


  1. ^ a b c From Tehran with love: the cinema of Mania Akbari, The F Word 9 July 2013, retrieved 27 January 2014
  2. ^ a b c d Iranian film-maker Mania Akbari: 'Cinema threatens the government', The Guardian 15 July 2013, retrieved 27 January 2014
  3. ^ "In other words: A talk with Mania Akbari". YouTube. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Festival de Cannes, Ten
  5. ^ a b "What is Love?" Mania Akbari Talks About Life, Love, and 20 Angosht (20 Fingers), Bright Lights Film Journal issue 47, February 2005
  6. ^ a b c "Mania Film". Mania Film. 8 March 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  7. ^ Tom Seymour. "Iranian film-maker Mania Akbari: 'Cinema threatens the government' | Film". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  8. ^ Ania Ostrowska (9 July 2013). "From Tehran with love: the cinema of Mania Akbari @ BFI PLUS competition - Blog". The F-Word. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "21. Internationales Filmfest Oldenburg | 10.-14. Sep. 2014: Retrospective Mania Akbari". Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ 10+4 at Cannes international film festival, ACID section
  14. ^ Screening of 10+4 at Centre Pompidou
  15. ^ Festival and Screening of Mania Akbari's movies
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Feature by Josh Slater-Williams. (2 August 2013). "One. On. One: Filmmaker Mania Akbari in conversation | Interview". The Skinny. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 

External links[edit]