Hannah Saidi accepts Golden Bear for her uncle, director Jafar Panahi
Banned Iranian director Jafar Panahi has won another international award, taking the Golden Bear at the 65th Berlin Film Festival. for his latest movie Taxi.
The director, who was imprisoned for two months in 2010 and is still under threat of a six-year prison sentence, is barred from working for 20 years and cannot travel abroad.
Panahi’s niece Hannah Saiidi, who stars in the film, accepted the prize on the director’s behalf. She broke down on stage saying she was “too moved” to talk.
The president of the Festival jury, American director Darren Aronofsky said:
Instead of allowing his spirit to be crushed and giving up, instead of allowing himself to be filled with anger and frustration, Jafar Panahi created a love letter to cinema,. His film is filled with love for his art, his community, his country and his audience.
Panahi was arrested in March 2010 because of his support of the mass protests after the disputed 2009 Presidential election. He was freed on $200,000 bail after two months but was subsequently given a six-year prison sentence and banned from directing for 20 years.
The director was not imprisoned, but was kept under effective house arrest with the prospect of being summoned to serve the sentence at any time. Defying the threat, he made This is Not a Film, a documentary about life under the house arrest, and smuggled it out of the country on a USB stick. The movie won acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival and at the Academy Awards.
With the easing of the house arrest last year, Panahi began making Taxi, featuring himself as the taxi driver. He also put out a message with the cameo appearance of Nasrin Sotoudeh, a leading human rights lawyer imprisoned for three years by the regime, as a passenger.
News of the film, again smuggled out of Iran on a USB stick, began to circulate last month with the Berlin Festival announcing it as one of its leading attractions.