Rakhshān Banietemad

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رخشان بنی‌اعتماد
Rakhshan Banietemad
رخشان بنی اعتماد کارگردان سینما.jpg
Born Rakhshan Banietemad
(1954-04-03) April 3, 1954 (age 63)
Tehran, Iran
Occupation Film director
Spouse(s) Jahangir Kosari (1979–present)
Children Baran (b. 1985), Tandis (b. 1975)
Website www.karafilm.ir

Rakhshān Banietemad (Persian: رخشان بنی‌اعتماد‎, born April 3, 1954 in Tehran, Iran) is an internationally and critically acclaimed Iranian film director and screenwriter. She is widely considered a premier female director, and her films have been praised at international festivals as well as being popular with Iranian critics and audiences.[1] Her title as "First Lady of Iranian Cinema" is not only a reference to her prominence as a filmmaker, but also connotes her social role of merging politics and family in her work.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Rakhshan Banietemad was born into a middle-class family. While her parents wanted her to pursue a career in teaching, she demonstrated an interest in film from a young age. As a teenager, she decided to study film. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in film studies from the Dramatic Arts University in Tehran.[3]


Shortly after completing her degree, Banietemad began working for the Iranian television network IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting), where she began directing television documentary features.[3] Her films are steeped in the social and economic problems of Iran.[4]

Banietemad did not receive immediate praise upon entering the film industry. Her early feature films were met by harsh criticism. However, she finally earned critical and popular success in 1991 with her film Nargess.[3] She received the Best Director Award from the Fajr Film Festival, marking the first time in the history of the festival that a woman was awarded the Best Director prize. Since then, she has received numerous awards for her films, including a Bronze Leopard Award for The Blue-Veiled at the 1995 Locarno Film Festival.[3]

While Banietemad's feature films have been acclaimed and honored worldwide, her documentaries have also been successful and popular internationally. Our Times… (2002) was the first documentary ever released in movie theatres in Iran. It was also screened in highly prestigious and prominent festivals and TV channels such as IDFA, Sundance Film Festival and ARTE.

Making documentaries have been her main way of connecting with the society and social issues. Indeed, the realistic aspects and the authentic feel of her feature films stems from her documentary style to life and social matters. Her approach in making documentaries and in depicting the social issues has been so strong and effective that her works have always resulted in causing change in the lives of her documentaries' subjects. Her documentaries center on issues of poverty, criminality, divorce, polygamy, social norms, cultural taboos, women's oppression, and cultural expectations.

With her 2002 film Our Times, Banietemad became the first female filmmaker to explicitly confront the Iran-Iraq war, placing her in an important role in Iranian film history.[3] She has been known to challenge censorship codes to the very edge.[5]

Banietemad has an interest and an attraction to strong female characters dealing with social issues.[3] In her more recent films, she features female characters from lower classes and incomes who are struggling to make a living.[5] She highlights the strength and resilience of Iranian women as the hope for the future of the country. According to the filmmaker, despite the legal and cultural barriers and the economic hardships for lower income women, their strong nature is the admirable quality about women in Iran.[3] In addition, her films focus on the complex relationships between mothers and their children. This stems from her own experience as a mother in Iran, but also from the Iranian woman's inability to tackle her life without considering her maternal role — a reality that is deeply ingrained in the Iranian patriarchal structure.[4]

Despite the predominance of strong female protagonists in her work, Banietemad is not to be associated with feminist filmmaking. In fact, Banietemad has explicitly rejected the label often applied to her by Western film festivals as a "feminist filmmaker." She is more concerned in the universal struggle of society’s lower rungs, regardless of gender. She does not identify with the label due to the implications of the word "feminist," which in Iran has a more negative connotation than in America. According to Banietemad, as long as the understanding of the term remains in Iran, she will disassociate with the label.[6]

In conjunction with her documentary approach to fictional film, Banietemad's signature style consists of films that deal with social issues specific to Iran yet still maintain broad international appeal. She is recognized for reflecting the struggles of Iran's lower classes, the plight of single women and single mothers in Iran, and complicated family relationships. She often examines the duality of human nature in familial and work spaces. To accommodate documentary conventions, her characters directly address the camera.[3]

Her film Tales was selected to compete for the Golden Lion at the 71st Venice International Film Festival.[7][8]


With a collection of films that combine absolute honesty with extraordinary subtlety, Banietemad offers an analysis of the current cultural pressures shaping Iranian women's lives.[9] She is widely recognized among Iranian audiences and critics as one of Iran's most prominent filmmakers, and has also enjoyed international popularity.[3]

She was awarded an honorary degree from SOAS in 2008.[10]

Personal life[edit]

She is the wife of Iranian film producer Jahangir Kosari. Her daughter is Iranian actress Baran Kosari, who has worked with her mother throughout most of her films. Kosari began acting from a young age, and she is now a professional actress. She has appeared in her mother's films, as well as those of other Iranian filmmakers.[4]

Humanitarian actions[edit]

Banietemad donated her international prize for the movie Ghesseh-ha to build a shelter for homeless women. She also donated some of her awards to help disadvantaged women.


Feature films


Honors and awards[edit]

Professional distinctions[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Cobbey, Rini. "Under the Skin of the City; Under the Surface Contrasts." Film in the Middle East and North Africa. Ed. Josef Gugler. Austin: Texas UP, 2011. 84-93.
  • "Rakhshan Banietemad." Firouzan Films. 2011. Firouzan Films.
  • Moruzzi, Norma Claire. "Women in Iran: Notes on Film and from the Field." Feminist Studies. 27.1(2001): 89-100.
  • Whatley, Sheri. "Iranian Women Film Directors: A Clever Activism." Off Our Backs. 33.3/4(2003): 30-32.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Banietemad film season in London - Irna
  2. ^ Cobbey, Rini. "Under the Skin of the City; Under the Surface Contrasts." Film in the Middle East and North Africa. Ed. Josef Gugler. Austin: Texas UP, 2011. 84-93.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Rakhshan BaniEtemad." Firouzan Films. 2011. 3 May 2012
  4. ^ a b c Alissa Simon. "Interview with Rakhshan Banietemad." Facets. 3 May 2012.
  5. ^ a b Whatley, Sheri. "Iranian Women Film Directors: A Clever Activism." Off Our Backs 27.1 (2003): 30-32. JSTOR. McHenry Lib., Santa Cruz, CA. 2 May 2012.
  6. ^ Laurier, Joanne. Walsh, David. "An Interview with Rakhshan Banietemad, co-director of Gilaneh." World Socialist website. 3 Oct. 2005. International Committee of the Fourth International. 4 May 2012.
  7. ^ "International competition of feature films". Venice. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  8. ^ "Venice Film Festival Lineup Announced". Deadline. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  9. ^ Moruzzi, Norma Claire. "Women in Iran: Notes on Film and from the Field." Feminist Studies. 27.1(2001): 89-100. JSTOR. McHenry Lib., Santa Cruz, CA. 4 May 2012.
  10. ^ a b "SOAS Honorary Fellows". SOAS. 
  11. ^ "Asia Pacific Screen Awards Winners Announced". AsiaPacificScreenAwards.com. Retrieved 2007-11-14. 
  12. ^ "'Pigeon' Soars, 'Birdman' Snubbed at Venice Awards". Variety. Retrieved 7 September 2014. 

External links[edit]