Panahi, 54, has been unable to leave Iran after his 2010 conviction on charges of “making propaganda” against the country’s ruling system. Authorities imposed a 20-year filmmaking ban on him, but he has continued to make movies.
Panahi couldn’t be in Berlin but his niece, Hana Saeidi, was on hand for a tearful acceptance of the Golden Bear statuette. “I’m not able to say anything — I’m too moved,” said Saeidi, who herself appears in the movie.
“Limitations often inspire filmmakers to storytellers to make better work, but sometimes those limitations can be so suffocating they destroy a project and often damage the soul of the artist,” said the Berlin jury president, American director Darren Aronofsky.
“Instead of allowing his spirit to be crushed and giving up, instead of allowing himself to be filled with anger and frustration, Jafar Panahi created a love letter to cinema.
“His film is filled with love for his art, his community, his country and his audience.” Aronofsky said.
Panahi has been a familiar figure at international film festivals over the years, even in absentia. The grand jury prize, which comes with a Silver Bear statuette, went to Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s movie The Club. The best actor and best actress awards went to Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling, who play a couple in British director Andrew Haigh’s drama 45 Years.