Samira Makhmalbaf

Samira Makhmalbaf
Born (1980-02-15) February 15, 1980
Tehran, Iran
Occupation Film director, producer, screenwriter
Years active 1998–present
Parent(s) Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Fatemeh Meshkini

Samira Makhmalbaf (Persian: سمیرا مخملباف, Samiraa Makhmalbaaf) (born February 15, 1980)[1] is an internationally acclaimed Iranian filmmaker and script writer. She is the daughter of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the film director and writer. Samira Makhmalbaf is considered to be one of the most influential directors as part of the Iranian New Wave.

At the age of 20, Samira studied Psychology and Law at Roehampton University in London.


She left high school when she was 14 to study cinema in the Makhmalbaf Film House for five years. At the age of 17, after directing two video productions, she went on to direct the movie The Apple. In an interview at the London Film Festival in 1998, Samira Makhmalbaf stated that she felt that her film The Apple owed its existence to the new circumstances and changed atmosphere that prevailed in Iran as a result of the Khatami presidency. National Film Theatre, 12 November 1998.[2]

In 2000 she was a member of the jury at the 22nd Moscow International Film Festival.[3]

Samira Makhmalbaf has been the winner and nominee of numerous awards. She was nominated twice for Golden Palm of Cannes Film Festival for Panj é asr (At Five in the Afternoon) (2003) and Takhté siah (Blackboards) (2001). She won Prix du Jury of Cannes, for both films in 2003 and 2001 respectively. Samira Mohmalbaf also won UNESCO Award of Venice Film Festival in 2002 for 11.09.01 - September 11 and Sutherland Trophy of London Film Festival for The Apple in 1998. In 2003, a panel of critics at the British newspaper The Guardian named Makhmalbaf among the best 40 best directors at work today.[4]

Personal life

Mohsen Makhmalbaf married Fatemeh Meshkini, who gave birth to their three children – Samira (or Zeynab, born in 1980), Meysam (or Ayyoub, born in 1981), and Hana (or Khatereh, born in 1988).[5] Mohsen Makhmalbaf says in an interview, “When I left the political organizations and moved into radio, Fatemeh came with me. I wrote programming and she became an announcer. When Samira was born, we’d take her with us to the radio station. We worked and she was always with one of us.[6] Fatemeh Meshkini died in a tragic accident in 1992. Makhmalbaf subsequently married Fatemeh Meshkini’s sister, Marziyeh Meshkini.[5]

Samira Makhmalbaf has been a great activist for women's rights almost all her life. In an interview with The Guardian she says, "We have a lot of limitations, from all the written and unwritten law. But, still, I hope and I believe that it will get better. It has started with the democracy movement. But some things don't happen consciously. I wanted to make films, I made films to say something else, but in a way I became a kind of example. It was breaking some kind of cliche. Another new way of thinking started. Yes, we have a lot of limitations, but these limitations made a lot of strong, different kinds of women in Iran who, if they find a chance to express themselves, I'm sure have plenty of things to say. They may have found a deeper way through all these limitations." [7] In the same interview she talks about politics and says, "Even if I made that kind of direct movie talking about politics, it's nothing. Nothing, because it's just talking like a journalist. You are saying something superficial. The movies I make are deeper. This kind of work can live more, longer, deeper, compared to that kind of journalistic work."[7]

At Five in the Afternoon is the first feature film to be made in a post-Taliban environment. She talks about her film to BBC, "I wanted to show reality, not the cliches on television saying that the US went to Afghanistan and rescued the people from the Taliban, that the US did a Rambo," said Makhmalbaf. "Though the Taliban have gone, their ideas are anchored in peoples' minds, in their traditions and culture, there is still a big difference between men and women in Afghanistan." [8]

In an interview with BBC she talks about the difficulties that women directors face in Iran. "Traditionally, it is in the minds of everybody that a woman cannot be a film maker. It is therefore very much harder for a woman. Also, when you live in this kind of situation there is a danger that you can start to develop a similar mind-set and so the thing is to challenge this situation, and then slowly the situation will change also in the minds of others. I very much hope that in the advent of freedom and democracy Iran can produce many more women directors."[9]

In an interview with Indiewire she is asked about the relationship between metaphor and reality in her film Blackboards. She says, "The first image of the film starts with a very surreal image, but as you go into the film, you can feel the reality of being a fugitive. And I love this image very much and I think it can carry different meanings. It can express social, philosophic, and poetical meaning -- so many metaphors, and yet also, you can go into their reality. The idea for the film came out of my father's mind when I was looking for a subject to do for my next film. He gave me three or four pages and then it was time for me to imagine it. But I couldn't simply imagine it. How can I sit here in Cannes and think of people living in Kurdistan? So I had to go in it and be involved in it. So I cast the actors and found my locations, and at the same time, I let the reality of the situation come in. I don't want to kill the subject and put it in front of the camera and just shoot it as a dead subject. I let the reality come into imagination. I believe that metaphors are born from the imagination of the artist and the reality of life making love to each other. An example: Imagine more than a hundred old men want to go back to their country. This is imagination and reality. It's reality because there are some older generations that want to go back to their country to die. This is real. But just being old men is imagination. Or just being one woman is imagination. Or carrying these white boards is a combination of reality and imagination. Because maybe it's possible, if you're a refugee, if you're a teacher, what can you do except carry your blackboard and look for students? They are like street vendors, shouting, "Come, try to learn something!" In such a dire situation, everyone is poor, so nobody can learn anything. It is imagination, but it could exist." [10]


Year Title Contribution Notes
1998 The Apple Director/writer
2000 Blackboards Director/writer won the Jury Prize at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival
2002 11'09"01 September 11 Director/writer (segment "God, Construction and Destruction")
2003 At Five in the Afternoon Director/writer/cinematographer
2008 Two-legged horse Director/producer

Awards and nominations


  1. Official Website
  2. Egan, Eric. The Films of Makhmalbaf: Cinema, Politics and Culture in Iran. Washington, DC: Mage, 2005. 174. Print.
  3. "22nd Moscow International Film Festival (2000)". MIFF. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  4. Bradshaw, Peter, Xan Brooks, Molly Haskell, Derek Malcolm, Andrew Pulver, B. Ru Rich, and Steve Rose. "The World's 40 Best Directors." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 13 Nov. 2003. Web. 30 Apr. 2012
  5. 1 2 Dabashi, Hamid. "On the Paradoxical Rise of a National Cinema and the Iconic Making of a Reel Filmmaker." Makhmalbaf at Large: The Making of a Rebel Filmmaker. London: I.B. Tauris, 2008. 4. Print
  6. Dabashi, Hamid. Close Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present, and Future. London: Verso, 2001. 192. Print
  7. 1 2 Weale, Sally. "Angry Young Woman." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 14 Dec. 2000. Web. 30 Apr. 2012
  8. "Afghan Plight Jolts Cannes." BBC News. BBC, 16 May 2003. Web. 30 Apr. 2012
  9. [Wood, David. "Blackboards: Peers and Working in Iran." BBC News. BBC. Web. 07 May 2012. <>.]
  10. ["INTERVIEW: Samira Makhmalbaf Paints It "Blackboards"" Indiewire Home. Web. 07 May 2012. <>.]
  11. "Festival de Cannes: Blackboards". Retrieved 2009-10-13.

Further reading

External links

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