Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Tehran, Iran, May 29, 1957) is an Iranian filmmaker, writer, scriptwriter, film producer and activist for human rights. He has been president of the Asian Film Academy since 2009 and founded in 1996 the alternative film school “Makhmalbaf Film House” in Tehran, today converted into a production company and brand of the Makhmalbaf family’s productions.
Mohsen belongs to the movement called the New Wave of Iranian cinema, a movement that started in the late 1980s and includes Iranian directors such as Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi, Ali Reza Raisian, Majid Majidi, Tahmineh Milani, Bahman Ghobadi and the same Makhmalbaf family (Marzieh Meshkini, his wife, and their daughters Samira and Hana). His filmography has been present in most of the major international film festivals of the first decade of the 21st century.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf was born in one of the poorest and most religious neighborhoods in Tehran and his parents separated 6 days after the wedding. His parents disputed his custody and his father kidnapped him, entrusting him to his aunt for a year and a half. This provided him with numerous books of fiction, literature and religious writings that awakened his taste for writing from a very young age. Raised later by his mother, the poor economic situation of the family meant that he had to work from the age of 12. By age 17, he had held more than 13 jobs.
In the early 1980s he was writing novels, short stories, plays and film scripts, and founded the Propaganda center for the spread of Islamic thinking and art. Having gone through no film school, he decided to dedicate himself to bringing culture closer to the people through cinema, moving away from the topics spread by Hollywood and Bollywood film productions. He wrote scripts and edited numerous films by other Iranian filmmakers. Despite the censorship, his first films quickly won him the support of the Iranian public and of the young filmmakers who in the 1980s were to shape the new Iranian cinema. In 1989, the Rimini Festival prize awarded to his film The Cyclist launched him on the international scene.