Berlin: Jafar Panahi Wins Golden Bear for 'Taxi'

Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

The film was shot in secret to circumvent the Iranian government, which has banned Panahi from making movies.

In a victory both for cinema and artistic freedom, Taxi, the new drama from Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, has won the Golden Bear for best film at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.

Panahi, who has been banned from making movies by the Iranian government, shot the film in secret. It takes place entirely in a taxi cab, with Panahi himself playing the driver, picking up oddball passengers on the streets of Tehran.

Panahi's niece Hana, who appears in the film, tearfully accepted the trophy in his place. The filmmaker is banned from leaving Iran.

Panahi is a Berlin favorite, having won a Silver Bear for best screenplay for Closed Curtain in 2013, another film the director shot in secret, and winning Berlin's runner-up Silver Bear Grand Jury prize in 2006 for Offside.

The Golden Bear win for Taxi was expected after the film received almost universally positive reviews on its Berlinale premiere.

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Overall, the picks made by the Berlinale jury, headed by Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky, were largely uncontroversial.

The awards were as follows: best acting honors for Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay for Andrew Haigh's 45 Years; the Grand Jury Silver Bear for Pablo Larrain's The Club; the Alfred Bauer prize, for a film that offers a “new artistic perspective," for Ixcanul, the widely praised coming-of-age tale from Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamente; best screenplay for Patricio Guzman for his documentary The Pearl Button and the ex aequo Silver Bear for outstanding artistic achievement for the cinematographers of German one-take drama Victoria and Russian feature Under Electric Clouds.

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The only possible controversy came with the director's prize, with the Silver Bear going, again ex aequo, to both Romanian director Radu Jude for Aferim! and to Poland's Malgorzata Szumowska for Body, two films that divided Berlin audiences.