Pen Pictures of directors (2): Iran

The Makhmalbaf Film House

The remarkable family of filmmakers known as the Makhmalbaf Film House (the website is well worth visiting) comprises Mohsen, Marziyeh, Samira, Maysam and Hana. Mohsen spent four and a half years as a teenage militant in the Shah’s prison until his release in 1979. This self-educated man has since devoted himself to alleviating the ‘cultural poverty’ of Iran with books and films which have often fallen foul of the censors. In 1996 he retired from the Iranian ‘film industry’ and opened a film school in which he taught, amongst others, his own three children and his second wife, Marziyeh. The family have subsequently produced several award-winning films.

Samira is the eldest daughter and has had the most stellar career so far. In 1998, aged 21, she took her film The Apple to Cannes and many other festivals where she won prizes. In 2000 Blackboards won her the Jury Prize at Cannes and a nomination for the Palme d’Or. She contributed to 11’09″01 — September 11 (2002) and in 2003 directed At 5 in the Afternoon. She is currently working on Two-Legged Horse for 2008 release — despite a bomb attack on the production in Afghanistan.

Marziyeh Meshkini (pictured above) has worked as assistant director for Mohsen and Samira and has directed two features herself. The Day I Grew Up To Be a Woman (2000) will be shown on the course. Stray Dog (2004) is another product of the Makhmalbaf Film House move to projects in Afghanistan after 2001.

Maysam has so far made one film — a documentary about the filming by his sister of Blackboards.

Hana is Samira’s young sister. Although only 19, she has already made a short film (when she was 9) and a documentary The Joy of Madness (when she was 14) about her sister’s experience on At 5 in the Afternoon. She has also published a book of poems.

As is evident from these brief descriptions, the Makhmalbafs all work on each other’s films and they are able to finance their productions through the Film House and its partnerships with production companies outside Iran (often in France).

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