Last week, we took a look at the daring Samira Makhmalbaf and mentioned her esteemed father. Well this week, we’re going to honour the man, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, with his own spotlight!
Makhmalbaf is a major figure in Iranian cinema. His passion for filmmaking started after being arrested at the age of 17 for being in a militant group against the oppressive Shah regime. He spent five years in jail before being released after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. His freedom allowed him to channel his energy towards more creative fields such as writing novels and stage plays.
Since then, he has made several more films. He divides the films he’s made into different periods. The first few, including his directorial debut NASUH REPENTANCE (1982), had very strong religious themes. After 1985, when censorship rules were loosened in Iran, his films were allowed to focus on general social problems. THE CYCLIST (1988) looks at an Afghani refugee who does a bicycle marathon to pay for his sick wife’s hospital bill whereas MARRIAGE OF THE BLESSED (1989) looks at a shell-shocked veteran of the Iran-Iraq war.
His next works were philosophical and poetic films. Some of his films from this period got him in trouble with the censors. Five movies were banned in Iran in the 1990s, with only three of the films having the ban lifted. TIME OF LOVE (1991) and THE NIGHTS OF ZAYANDEH-ROOD (1991) remain banned. Around this time, he faced some financial difficulties because he could not gain the money back from producing the banned films.
In 1996, Makhmalbaf took time off from directing in order to form the Makhmalbaf Film House. Although it was meant to be a school for young filmmakers, it quickly became a private production house for the large number of filmmakers in his family. One notable alumna of the school is our spotlight individual from last week, his daughter, Samira Makhmalbaf. He was the writer and editor for his daughter’s first film, THE APPLE (1997).
He has since returned to filmmaking and directed some great films such as his most recent work, THE PRESIDENT (2014). With a respectable portfolio of feature films and dozens of awards, Mohsen Makhmalbaf is a truly fearless and courageous “indie”-vidual in Iranian and world cinema.