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Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Mohsen Makhmalbāf
Born (1957-05-29) May 29, 1957
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 juror in more than 15 major film festivals. His award-winning films include Kandahar; his latest documentary is The Gardener and latest feature The President.

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, sixth President of Iran, and has lived in Paris since the events of the 2009 Iranian presidential election.[2]


  • Life 1
  • Career 2
  • Degrees and honors 3
  • Filmography 4
  • Books on Makhmalbaf 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • External links 8


Makhmalbaf was born in Tehran on May 29, 1957. At the age of 15, he became involved in a militant group fighting against the rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the then Shah of Iran, and at the age of 17 he was imprisoned for stabbing a policeman and sentenced to death. After serving five years of his sentence, he was released in the wake of the Iranian Revolution.[3][4] He left Iran in 2005.[5]


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.[6]

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),[7] 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".[8] It is a romantic trilogy that offers three variations of the same story.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

Degrees and honors

  • 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 rights 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.


Year English title Original title Length Notes
1983 Pure Repentance Tawba Nasuh 100 minutes
1984 Two Blind Eyes Do Cheshme Bisoo 102 minutes
Seeking Refuge Isti'azah 89 minutes
1986 Boycott Boycott 95 minutes
1987 The Hawker Dastforoush 90 minutes
1989 The Cyclist Bicycleran 83 minutes
Marriage of the Blessed Arousi-ye Khouban 70 minutes
1991 Time of Love Nobat e Asheghi 70 minutes
The Nights of Zayande-rood Shabhaye Zayandeh-rood 75 minutes
1992 Once Upon a Time, Cinema Nasseroddin Shah Actor-e Cinema 92 minutes
1993 Images from the Qajar Period Tasvir Dar Doran-e Ghajar 18 minutes Short documentary
The Artist Honarpisheh 86 minutes
Stone and Glass Sang-o-Shisheh 20 minutes Short documentary
1995 Hello Cinema Salaam Cinema 81 minutes Documentary
1996 Gabbeh 72 minutes
A Moment of Innocence Nun va Goldoon 78 minutes
1997 The School the Wind Blew Away Madrese-i ke bad bord 8 minutes Short
1998 The Silence Sokout 74 minutes
1999 Tales of Kish Ghessé hayé kish 72 minutes Segment The Door
2000 Tales of an Island Dastanhaye Jazireh 76 minutes Segment Testing Democracy
2001 Kandahar Safar-e Ghandehar 85 minutes
The Afghan Alphabet Alefbay-e afghan 46 minutes Documentary
2005 Sex & Philosophy Sex o phalsapheh 102 minutes
2006 Scream of the Ants Faryad moorcheha 85 minutes
The Chair Sandali 8 minutes Short
2009 The Man Who Came with the Snow 75 minutes Co-directed with Marzieh Meshkini
2012 The Gardener Bagheban 87 minutes Documentary
2013 The Endless Smile Labkhande-bi-payan 52 minutes Documentary
2014 The President 118 minutes
2015 The Tenant 18 minutes Short

Films banned in Iran

Film appearances

Books on Makhmalbaf

  • Hamid Dabashi, Close Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present and Future. (Chapter on Makhmalbaf). Verso, 2001.[13]
  • Hamid Dabashi, Like Light from the Heart of Darkness. Sakuhinsha, Japan, 2004.[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • Hamid Dabashi, Makhmalbaf at Large: The Making of a Rebel Filmmaker. I. B. Tauris, 2007. [3]
  • 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.

See also


  1. ^ "All-Time 100 Movies". Time. February 12, 2005. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  2. ^ 2009 articleGuardian
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ La Biennale di Venezia
  7. ^ Mohsen Makhmalbaf
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Combustible Celluloid film review – Gabbeh (1996), Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Shaghayegh Djodat, Hossein Moharami, dvd review
  11. ^ Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson , ed. Film History. 3rd. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. 610. Print.
  12. ^ Axmaker, Sean (October 1, 2002). "Haunting 'Kandahar' a stark, surreal odyssey". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 
  13. ^ Hamid Habashi. "Close Up: Iranian Cinema". Archived from the original on March 29, 2008. Retrieved September 7, 2010. 
  14. ^ [4] Archived February 7, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Persian Poetry and Shahnameh Books – Culture of Iran from Mage Publishers". Retrieved September 7, 2010. 

External links

  • Makhmalbaf Film House (Official Website of Makhmalbaf's family: Mohsen – Marzieh – Samira – Maysam – Hana)
  • Mohsen Makhmalbaf at the Internet Movie Database
  • Firouzan Films Iranian Movie Hall of Fame Inductee Mohsen Makhmalbaf
  • Worlds Transformed: Iranian Cinema and Social Vision
  • Mohsen Makhmalbaf: Retrospective by Donato Totaro (1997)
  • Tribute to Makhmalbaf: The Gardener (Jerusalem film Festival)
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