Renowned director, author and producer Jafar Panahi made a number of short films and documentaries before he filmed his directorial debut, Badkonake sefid (THE WHITE BALLOON), which earned him the Camera d'Or in Cannes in 1995. In 1997 he won the Golden Leopard in Locarno for Ayneh (THE MIRROR) and in 2000 the Golden Lion in Venice for Dayereh (THE CIRCLE). OFFSIDE won the Silver Bear (Grand Prix of the Jury) at the Berlinale in 2006.
In his films Jafar Panahi critically examines the social circumstances in his country. Shortly after the Berlinale invited him to be on the International Jury in 2011, Panahi was sentenced to six years imprisonment and banned from filmmaking for the next 20 years. There has been worldwide protest against this verdict that violates the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Unfortunately Jafar Panahi was denied permission to leave his home country for Berlin. The Berlinale was holding a place open in the Jury for him and in doing so wanted to signalize its support for his struggle for freedom.
As a director and producer Mirtahmasb sheds light on the artistic and social atmosphere of modern-day Iran. After graduating from Tehran's University of Art in 1995, Mirtahmasb completed a nine-part documentary film series entitled Art Stories. Consisting of films such as Alam and Buy-e gol-e Mohamadi, Art Stories earned Mirtahmasb significant appreciation from his peers for his in-depth
look at the artistic artifacts produced by Iran's
Islamic culture. Mirtahmasb would continue to work as a documentarian, collaborating with notable Iranian filmmakers such as Kambozia Partovi (IRAN IS MY HOME) and Sediq Barmak (OSAMA). Mirtahmasb's recent efforts have provided an honest and objective perspective on the political climate of post-revolutionary Iran. In early September 2011, Mirtahmasb was prevented from leaving the country to attend the Toronto International Film Festival, where his documentary about Panahi was being shown. Mirtahmasb, along with six other Iranian filmmakers, was arrested later that month on the charge of "collaborating with the Persian BBC" and was forced to spend three months in Evin Prison in Tehran.