He shot the first Kurdish-language films to garner international acclaim, and is one of the most important Iranian filmmakers to this day. Bahman Ghobadi started shooting short films as a teenager, and studied photography and filmmaking in Tehran. He went on to work as assistant director for Abbas Kiarostami (THE WIND WILL CARRY US). His feature film debut A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES (2000) made him world-famous overnight. The first Kurdish feature film in the history of Iranian cinema told a story of children eking out a living in the war zone – with smarts, courage and suffering. His third feature TURTLES CAN FLY (2004) is also told from the perspective of children in a refugee camp on the Iraqi-Turkish border, with heartwarming humor in the face of terrible tragedy.
Ghobadi grew up during the Iran-Iraq war, during which time his family had to leave their home and move to Sanandaj, the largest city in Kurdish Iran. His films often deal with the refugee experience, and he frequently casts non-actors whose lives are a lot like what we see on screen. Music also plays a big part in Ghobadi’s films. In MAROONED IN IRAQ (2002) he tells the story of three musicians looking for a female singer. HALF MOON (2006) is the story of an aging composer who wants to travel to Iraq for an anniversary concert with his ten musician sons.
Ghobadi shot NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS (2009) set in the Tehran underground music scene without official permission, raising international awareness for censorship and oppression in Persia. He has lived in exile ever since.
The story of Kurdish poet Sadegh Kamangar, which Bahman Ghobadi retells in RHINO SEASON (2012), was also a story of exile. It was Ghobadi’s largest big-budget production, starring Monica Bellucci and Iranian star Behrouz Vossoughi, who emigrated to the USA afterward as well. Ghobadi stresses the fact that he loves his country, but finds it impossible to work as an artist in Iran.
His current projects A FLAG WITHOUT A COUNTRY and omnibus doc LIFE ON THE BORDER (both 2015) are viscerally informed by the current war in Syria, offering a view of what life is like behind the everyday headlines. LIFE ON THE BORDER was produced by Ghobadi and directed by refugee children living in camps in Iraq and Syria. A FLAG WITHOUT A COUNTRY, a dramatic tale of the fate of the Kurds, will have its European premiere at FILMFEST MÜNCHEN.
A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES won the Golden Camera and the Fipresci Prize in Cannes 2000. NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS won the Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes. TURTLES CAN FLY won seven audience awards at various festivals, including Rotterdam, San Sebastián, São Paulo and Tokyo.
The Munich retrospective will show all his feature films, plus short film DAF, episode film WORDS WITH GOD, which also includes segments by Amos Gitai, Emir Kusturica and Mira Nair, as well as his latest film as producer, which he shot with kids in a refugee camp as directors, LIFE ON THE BORDER.