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February 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Dissident Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s Taxi has won the international competition for the top Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. The film, in which Panahi himself plays a taxi driver chatting with passengers, was made in defiance of a court ruling barring Panahi from making films for 20 years as punishment for making “anti-government propaganda.” The award was thus seen not only as a recognition of Panahi’s artistic talent but also as a rebuke to state authorities attempting to control artistic enterprise. Panahi himself appeared to acknowledge as much on an Instagram account linked to him in which he was quoted as saying, “This is an important artistic and political acknowledgment of the film that makes me very proud.” Director Darren Aronofsky, who presided over the festival’s jury, said as he awarded the Golden Bear trophy to Panahi’s young niece (who appears in the film), “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.” The official English-language Tehran Times reported Panahi’s win but gave top credit to another Iranian film that won the secondary Panorama competition, Hamed Rajabi’s A Minor Leap Down. Taxi, it noted, received the prize in the “Completion” section — a seemingly intentional typo.