April 3, 1954
|Spouse(s)||Jahangir Kosari (1979–present)|
|Children||Baran (b. 1985), Tandis (b. 1975)|
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. 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.
Early life and education
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.
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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. Her films are steeped in the social and economic problems of Iran.
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. 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.
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. She has been known to challenge censorship codes to the very edge.
Banietemad has an interest and an attraction to strong female characters dealing with social issues. In her more recent films, she features female characters from lower classes and incomes who are struggling to make a living. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. She is widely recognized among Iranian audiences and critics as one of Iran's most prominent filmmakers, and has also enjoyed international popularity.
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.
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.
- Tales (Ghesseh ha), 2014
- Heiran (producer), director: Shalizeh Arefpour, 2009
- Mainline (Khun bazi), 2006
- Gilaneh, 2005
- Under the Skin of the City (Zir-e pust-e shahr), 2000
- Baran and the Native (Baran va bumi), part of feature film Kish, 1998
- The May Lady (Banu-ye ordibehesht), 1997
- The Blue-Veiled (Rusari abi), 1994
- Nargess, 1991
- Foreign Currency (Poul-e khareji), 1989
- Canary Yellow (Zard-e qanari), 1988
- Off the Limits (Kharej az mahdudeh), 1987
- Karestan Documentary films (artistic consultant), 2013–17:
- Poets of Life
- Mother of the Earth
- MAHAK: A World She Founded
- Friends at Work
- Flax to Fire
- Hey, Humans (Ay, Adamha), 2016
- One Hour in a Lifetime (Yek saat az yek omr), 2015
- All My Trees (Hameh derakhtan-e man), 2015
- The Other Side of Mirrors (An sooy-e ayeneh ha), 2014
- The Mirrors Recital (Concert-e ayeneh ha), 2014
- The Concert of the Lords of Secrets (concert-e khodavandan-e asrar), 2014
- Mahak My Home (Khaneh man Mahak), a teamwork, 2014
- Keep Children in School (Bacheh ha ra dar madreseh negahdarim), a teamwork, 2012
- The Room No. 202 (Otahgh-e 202), part of Kahrizak 4 Views, 2012
- I’ll see you Tomorrow Elina (Farda mibinamet Elina), 2010
- We Are Half of Iran's Population (Ma nimi az jameiat-e Iranim), 2009
- Angels of the House of Sun (Hayat khalvate khaneh khorshid), 2009
- Second Home (producer), Director: Mahvash Sheikholeslami, 2008
- 3D Carpet (Farsh-e 3 Bodi), Part of "Iranian Carpet", 2007
- Our Times… (Ruzegar-e ma…), 2002
- Under the Skin of the City (Zir-e pust-e shahr), 1996
- The Last Visit with Iran Daftari (Akharin didar ba Iran Daftari), 1995
- To Whom Do You Show These Films? (In filmha ra beh ki neshun midin?), 1993
- Spring to Spring (Bahar ta bahar), 1993
- The 1992 Report (Gozaresh-e 71), 1993
- Centralization (Tamarkoz), 1986
- The War Economic Planning (Tadbirha-ye eqtesadi-e jang), 1981
- Occupation of Migrant Peasants in the City (Mohajerin-e roustai dar shahr),1980
- The Culture of Consumption (Farhang-e masrafi), 1979
Honors and awards
- Honorary Golden Cyclo, 23th Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema (France), 2017
- Ethics and Prayer Award for social and civilian activities (Iran), 2016
- Cinema Honorary Award, 4th International Women Film Festival (Afghanistan), 2016
- Cinema Honorary Award, 6th International Crime & Punishment Film Festival (Turkey), 2016
- Best Film, Tales, Prague Iranian Film Festival (Chezk), 2016
- Audience Award, Tales, Gene Siskel Film Center (USA), 2015
- Best Film, Tales, London Iranian Film Festival (UK), 2015
- Special Jury Prize, Tales, Asia Pacific Screen Awards (Australia), 2014
- Best Film, Tales, Golden Royal Bengal Tiger Award, Kolkata International Film Festival (India), 2014
- Best Screenplay prize, Tales, Venice International Film Festival (Italy), 2014
- Special Jury Prize, Kahrizak 4 views, Dubai International Film Festival (UAE), 2012
- Prix Henri Langlois, Vincennes International Film Festival (France), 2010
- Special Jury Prize, We Are Half of Iran's Population, (WIFTS) (USA), 2009
- Special Jury Prize & Best Actress, Mainline, Dhaka International Film Festival (Pakistan), 2009
- Best Screenplay & Best Actress, Mainline, Pyongyang International Film Festival (North Korea), 2008
- Grand Jury Prize, Mainline, International Women's Film Festival (Creteil, France), 2008
- Achievement in Directing, Mainline, Asia Pacific Screen Awards (Australia), 2007
- Best Director & Best Actress, Mainline, Iran Cinema House Awards (Iran), 2007
- Best Director & Best Actress, Mainline, Fajr International Film Festival (Iran), 2007
- Best Film, Mainline, City International Film Festival (Iran), 2006
- Best Film, Mainline, Asiatica Film Mediale (Italy), 2006
- Special Jury Prize, Gilaneh, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria International Film Festival (Spain), 2006
- Netpac Award, Gilaneh, Vesoul Asian Film Festival (France), 2006
- Golden Lotus Award, Iranian Women Film Directors (Iran), 2006
- Best Film & Best Actress, Gilaneh, Kara International Film Festival]] (Pakistan), 2005
- Artistic & Cultural Achievement Award, Kara International Film Festival (Pakistan), 2004
- Special Jury Award, Under the Skin of the City, Seattle International Film Festival (USA), 2002
- Netpac Award, Our Times…, Locarno International Film Festival (Swiss), 2002
- Netpac Award, Under the Skin of the City, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (Chezk), 2001
- Holden Award for Best Script, Audience Award, & Cinemavvenire Award for Best Feature Film, Under the Skin of the City, Turin International Film Festival (Italy), 2001
- Special Jury Prize, Under the Skin of the City, Moscow International Film Festival (Russia), 2000
- Special Jury Award, The May Lady, Fajr International Film Festival (Iran), 1998
- Honourable Mention, FIPRESCI Award, The May Lady, Montreal International Film Festival (Canada), 1998
- Prince Claus Prize for Culture and Development (The Netherlands), 1998
- "Il Sindaco di Firenze” Peace and Freedom Award (Italy), 1998
- Best Asian Woman Director, The Blue Veiled, India International Film Festival (India), 1996
- FIPRESCI Award, The Blue Veiled, Tessaloniki International Film Festival (Greece), 1996
- Bronze Leopard, The Blue Veiled, Locarno International Film Festival (Swiss) 1995
- Best Script & Best Supporting Actress, The Blue Veiled, Fajr International Film Festival (Iran), 1994
- Best Director & Best Musical Score, Nargess, Fajr International Film Festival (Iran), 1991
- Best Supporting Actor, Canary Yellow, Fajr International Film Festival (Iran), 1988
- Best Film, Off the Limits, Comedy International Film Festival (Italy), 1987
- Bronze Leopard, 48th Locarno Film Festival (for The Blue-Veiled)
- The Prince Claus Award, 1998
- Best Achievement in Directing, Asia Pacific Screen Awards (for Mainline, with Mohsen Abdolvahab)
- Honorary doctorate, SOAS, University of London (2008) 
- Best Screenplay Award, 71st Venice International Film Festival (for Tales, with Farid Mostafavi)
- Jury Member, Venice International Film Festival (Italy), 2017
- Academy Oscars Member, Writers Branch, 2017
- President of the jury, Vesoul Film Festival (France), 2017
- President of the jury, Prague Iranian Film Festival (Czech), 2017
- President of the jury, Image Film Festival (Iran), 2016
- President of the jury, Cinema Verite International Film Festival (Iran), 2013
- President of the jury, Busan International Film Festival (South Korea), 2013
- Master Class, California Institute of the Arts (USA), 2013
- Jury Member, Shanghai International Film Festival (China), 2012
- Jury Member, Dubai International Film Festival (UAE), 2010
- Jury Member, Asiatic Film Mediale Festival (Italy), 2010
- Master Class, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (USA), 2010
- Jury Member, Fribourg International Film Festival (Switzerland), 2010
- Jury Member, Urban International Film Festival (Iran), 2009
- Producer, Heiran, feature-film (Iran), 2009
- Producer, Second House, documentary (Iran), 2008
- Honorary Doctorate, University of London (Iran), 2008
- Master Class, School of Oriental and African Studies, SOAS (England), 2008
- Master Class, Geneva University of Art & Design (ESBA), 2008
- Jury Member, Cinema Verite International Film Festival (Iran), 2007
- Jury Member, Women's Film Festival (Iran), 2006
- Jury Member, Asian Cinema, Fajr International Film Festival (Iran), 2006
- Jury Member, Art University Student Festival (Iran), 2005
- Director, Sony Young Directors Film Festival (Iran), 2003
- Jury Member, Asia Pacific Film Festival (Iran), 2003
- Jury Member, Sony Young Directors Film Festival (Iran), 2002
- Jury Member, Moscow International Film Festival ( Russia), 2002
- Jury Member, Cairo International Film Festival (Egypt), 2002
- Jury Member, Fajr International Film Festival (Iran), 2001
- Jury Member, Montreal International Film Festival (Canada), 2001
- Jury Member, Youth Film Festival (Iran), 2001
- Jury Member, Student Film Festival (Iran), 1999
- Jury Member, Leipzig International Film Festival (Germany), 1999
- Jury Member, Tokyo Environmental International Film Festival (Japan), 1998
- Jury Member, New Delhi International Film Festival (India), 1998
- Jury Member, Student Film Festival (Iran), 1997
- Jury Member, Locarno International Film Festival (Swiss), 1996
- Jury Member, Turin International Film Festival (Italy), 1995
- Jury Member, Center for Iranian Film Directors (Iran), 1993
- Jury Member, Roshd Film Festival (Iran), 1992
- Jury Member, Fajr International Film Festival (Iran), 1990
- 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.
- Banietemad film season in London - Irna
- 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. 3 May 2012
- Alissa Simon. "Interview with Rakhshan Banietemad." Facets. 3 May 2012.
- 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.
- "International competition of feature films". Venice. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
- "Venice Film Festival Lineup Announced". Deadline. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
- 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.
- "SOAS Honorary Fellows". SOAS.
- "Asia Pacific Screen Awards Winners Announced". AsiaPacificScreenAwards.com. Retrieved 2007-11-14.
- "'Pigeon' Soars, 'Birdman' Snubbed at Venice Awards". Variety. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
- Joanne Laurier and David Walsh, "An interview with Rakhshan Banietemad, co-director of Gilaneh", World Socialist website, 3 October 2005.
- Rakhshan Banietemad on IMDb
- Her profile at CityofWomen
- "Rakhshan Banietemad Film Season April 2008 - London", Payvand, March 25, 2008.
- "London to honor Iran's Banietemad", PressTV, Friday, April 4, 2008.
- "Banietemad film season in London", IRNA, April 7, 2008.
- "The Cinema and Rakhshan Banietemad", April 19, 2008, Centre for Media and Film Studies, SOAS, University of London.
- Bidisha, What will British audiences make of a great Iranian auteur?, The Guardian, April 23, 2008
- "Honorary Doctorate of University of London for Rakhshan Banietemad", in Persian, BBC Persian, Wednesday July 23, 2008.
- We are half of the Iranian population (ما نیمی از جمعیت ایران هستیم), a non-partisan documentary by Banietemad in which women ask questions of the 2009 Iranian presidential candidates, in Persian, 7 June 2009: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.
Note: The text in the opening part of this documentary grants permission for non-profit public viewing.