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Jafar Panahi, born July 11, 1960 in Mianeh, Iran is an Iranian filmmaker and is one of the most influential filmmakers in the Iranian New Wave movement. After studying film directing at the College of Cinema and Television in Tehran, Panahi made several films for Iranian television and was the assistant director of Abbas Kiarostami's film "Through the Olive Trees" (1994). Since that time, he has directed several films and won numerous awards in international film festivals such as the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
His most notable offering to date has been "The Circle" (2000), which criticized the treatment of women under Iran's Islamist regime. Jafar Panahi won the Golden Lion, the top prize at the Venice Film Festival for The Circle, which was named FIPRESCI Film of the Year at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, and appeared on Top 10 lists of critics worldwide.
Panahi's "Offside" (the story of girls who disguise themselves as boys to be able to watch a football match) was selected for competition in the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, where he was awarded with the Silver Bear (Jury Grand Prix).
Panahi says that his style can be described as "humanitarian events interpreted in a poetic and artistic way". He says "In a world where films are made with millions of dollars, we made a film about a little girl who wants to buy a fish for less than a dollar (in The White Balloon) this is what we're trying to show.
On 1 March 2010, Panahi was arrested by the Iranian government and taken from his home along with his wife Tahereh Saidi, daughter Solmaz Panahi and 15 of his friends. Although Panahi's charges are not specifies, it is believed that he was arrested after he was producing a documentary about Iran's troubled June 2009 Election and the ensuing unrest, and news of torture, rape and murder inside Iranian prisons.
Panahi remains in ward 209 inside Iran's notorious Evin Prison. Panahi's arrest was confirmed by the government, but charges were not specified. A large group of world's distinguished intellectuals, politicians, filmmakers, and actors and have called for Panahi's release. Among them: Robert Redford, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Robert De Niro, Ethan and Joel Coen, Michael Moore, Jonathan Demme, Oliver Stone, Ken Loach, Dardenne brothers, Jon Jost, Walter Salles, Olivier Assayas, Tony Gatlif, Abbas Kiarostami, Kiomars Pourahmad, Bahram Bayzai, Asghar Farhadi, Nasser Taghvai, Kamran Shirdel and Tahmineh Milani, actors Brian Cox and Mehdi Hashemi, actresses Fatemeh Motamed-Aria and Golshifteh Farahani, film critics Roger Ebert, Amy Taubin, David Denby, Kenneth Turan, David Ansen, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Jean-Michel Frodon, Federation of European Film Directors, European Film Academy, Asia Pacific Screen Awards, Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema, Berlin Film Festival, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Febiofest, National Society of Film Critics, Toronto Film Critics Association, Turkish Cinema Council, France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, minister of culture and communications Frédéric Mitterrand, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, Canadian government, Finnish Green MP Rosa Meriläinen and Human Rights Watch.