It didn’t take long after the production of his first feature film, A Time for Drunken Horses, for Bahman Ghobadi to become one of the world’s most celebrated cinematic auteurs. Ghobadi was born in Iranian Kurdistan and studied film directing in Tehran. His roots in cinema are grounded in Iran’s history of neorealist filmmaking. In Tehran, he served as an assistant to director Abbas Kiarostami, the late Palme d’Or winning Iranian director who is regarded as one of the finest filmmakers of all time.
In 2000, Ghobadi’s film A Time for Drunken Horses won the prestigious Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Four years later, his film, Turtles Can Fly, would sweep awards from Berlin to San Sebastian. And in 2009, No One Knows About Persian Cats—his documentary about the underground and outlawed rock music scene in Tehran—won the Un Certain Regard at Cannes and was widely acclaimed as one of the year’s best films.
Ghobadi defines the Iranian New Wave, underpinning all of his work with sociopolitical implications of Kurdish culture. In A Time for Drunken Horses, Ghobadi tells the tale of Iranian-Kurdish orphans struggling to survive after the death of their parents. In Turtles Can Fly, Ghobadi sets his film in a Kurdish refugee camp during the US invasion of Iraq. The story gradually unveils the lives of three young children whose lives unfold during the disarmament of Saddam Hussein’s minefields on the Iraqi-Turkish border. Famed film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, saying he “[wished] everyone who has an opinion on the war in Iraq could see ‘Turtles can Fly.’”
Today, Ghobadi is both a filmmaker and a Kurdish activist. He has recently teamed up with renowned filmmaker Martin Scorsese on some of his newest projects, and continues to travel between Turkey and New York frequently for work and filming. As one of the only representative voices of Kurdistan in the cinematic sphere, Ghobadi has made it his mission to produce groundbreaking work.
Ghobadi is currently a contributor to The Kurdish Project. Read his piece on working with Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters in Iraqi Kurdistan here.