Panahi, Jafar (1960–)

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Panahi, Jafar

Panahi is a world-famous Iranian filmmaker and part of the Iranian New Wave movement in film.


Panahi was born on 11 July 1960 in Mianeh, Iran. He was attracted to the arts early on, and a book he wrote at age ten won a literary prize. He also became involved in filmmaking as a youth, acting in one 8 millimeter film and codirecting another. While fulfilling his service in the Iranian army during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, Panahi produced a documentary about the war. He later studied film at the College of Cinema and Television in Tehran. Since then he has remained in Iran working as a filmmaker.


In addition to making films for Iranian television, Panahi was assistant director to legendary Iranian filmmaker ABBAS KIAROSTAMI's production of Zir e Darakhtan e Zeyton (Through the Olive Trees, 1994). A protégé of Kiarostami, Panahi's own breakthrough occurred the following year when his first feature film, Badkonake Sefid (The White Balloon) burst onto the international cinema world. Written by Kiarostami, it received rave reviews around the world and was awarded the Gold Award at the 1995 Tokyo International Film Festival and the Prix de la Camera d'Or at Cannes. In 2000 he produced Dayereh (The Circle). Whereas Badkonake Sefid offered a poignant slice-of-live portrayal of life in modern Iran, Dayereh, which consists of three intersecting stories rather than a conventional story line, more openly criticized the treatment of women in the country, and for that reason is banned in his native Iran even though it was highly acclaimed in the West. Talaye Sorkh (Crimson Gold, 2003) also was well received worldwide.

Described by one critic as providing a variation of neorealism, Iranian-style, Panahi makes films that plunge into the social fabric of Iran by telling compelling, human stories. Panahi's latest film, Offside (2006), is similar to Dayereh, another film about women in Iran who run afoul of Iranian authorities. The film is about three Iranian girls who disguise themselves as boys in order to attend a World Cup soccer (football) match that only males are allowed to watch in person. Panahi reportedly was inspired to make the film after the experience of his own daughter, who attended a soccer match despite the ban on female attendees. Offside was filmed surreptitiously, with a handheld video camera, using nonprofessional actors. It was edited on a home computer and distributed internationally, although not in Iran.


Name: Jafar Panahi

Birth: 1960, Mianeh, Iran

Family: Wife; children

Nationality: Iranian

Education: College of Cinema and Television, Tehran, Iran


  • 1994: Assistant director for Abbas Kiarostami's film Zir e Darakhtan e Zeyton (Through the Olive Trees); directs Badkonake Sefid (The White Balloon)
  • 1997: Directs Ayneh (The Mirror)
  • 2000: Directs Dayereh (The Circle)
  • 2003: Directs Talaye Sorkh (Crimson Gold)
  • 2006: Directs Offside


Even though he is still a relatively new filmmaker, Panahi already has received some top international film awards. In addition to the Prix de la Camera d'Or at Cannes for The White Balloon, he received other major awards such as the Golden Leopard Award he garnered for Ayneh (The Mirror) at the 1997 Locarno Film Festival. The Circle won the Golden Lion at the 2000 Venice Film Festival, a film that also was named Film of the Year by FIPRESCI (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique). Crimson Gold won the Un Certain Regard Jury Award at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. In 2006 Offside won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival Grand Jury Prize. It also was in the official selection for the 2006 New York Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival.

At home in Iran, however, several of his films have run afoul of conservative government censors. Described by one critic as the Oliver Stone of Iran, some of his films have been banned.


Already in his young career, Panahi has emerged as one of Iran's most acclaimed filmmakers. As a New Wave Iranian filmmaker, he is destined to go down as one of modern Iran's most accomplished filmmakers, despite the fact that several of his productions are banned in that country.


Maruf, Maryam. "Offside Rules: An Interview with Jafar Panahi." Open Democracy. Available from

Teo, Stephen. "The Case of Jafar Panahi: An Interview with the Iranian Director of The Circle." Senses of Cinema. Available from

                                       Michael R. Fischbach