Banned Iranian director Panahi's 'Taxi' wins Berlin's Golden Bear

Sat Feb 14, 2015 6:07pm EST
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By Michael Roddy and Michelle Martin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Banned Iranian director Jafar Panahi's "Taxi," which shows a cabby driving an odd assortment of people around Tehran but is really a condemnation of censorship, won the Golden Bear for best film on Saturday at the Berlin International Film Festival.

The award, which the director was not in Berlin to accept, was hailed by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a statement as “an important sign for the freedom of art.”

On an Instagram account said to be Panahi's, Iranian journalists at a post-awards news conference said he had posted a message in Farsi saying: "This is an important artistic and political acknowledgment of the film that makes me very proud."

At the news conference, the Golden Bear was placed on its own for cameras, with no one holding it.

The apparently whimsical but ultimately profound look at life and filmmaking in Iran, shot from the interior of a taxi with the director at the wheel, was shown despite Tehran's ban on Panahi.

“He created a love letter to cinema, his film is filled with love for his art, his community, his country and his audience,” director Darren Aronofsky, head of the prize jury, said in presenting the award.

It was accepted on Panahi's behalf at the awards ceremony by a girl identified on the Berlin festival's website as Hana Saeidi, who cried as she stood in front of the glittering audience.

Saeidi appears in the film and, according to the website, is Panahi's niece. But, because of sensitivities surrounding the film, the people appearing in it are not listed in the credits.   Continued...

The niece (C) of Iranian film director Jafar Panahi appears on stage with jury members and prize winners after accepting the Golden Bear for Best Film on her uncle's behalf, during the awards ceremony at the 65th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 14, 2015. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke