World-renowned Iranian Filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf Makes a Film in Israel about the Baha’i Faith – Stepping on Two Taboos at Once

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One of Iran's most active and praised directors makes a film in Israel artistically exploring the the relevancy of religion in today's world. "The Gardener," one of Makhmalbaf's most unusual films, has been shown in Busan, Rotterdam and some ten other prestigious festivals and is now set for its North American Premier.

The Gardener Film Poster

A stimulating and highly accessible cinematic conversation" -Variety

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The director of award-winning films such as "Kandahar", "The Cyclist", "Salaam Cinema" and some twenty other feature films, Mohsen Makhmalbaf and son Maysam Makhmalbaf present their latest poetic film, "The Gardener," the third in the series starting with "Gabbeh" (Cannes, ‘96) and "Silence" (Venice, ’98) in North America.

"The Gardener" is perhaps the only film in decades that is made by an Iranian director in Israel. The current Iranian law prohibits any citizen from traveling to Israel and the filmmakers are subject to up-to five years in prison should they go back to Iran. Having made a film in defense of a taboo religion is yet another crime whose other offenders are the likes of Nobel laureate Shirin Ebbadi.

"The Gardener" revolves around the question of religion and its relevancy in today’s world from two different perspectives, represented by the father and son. Variety magazine calls it “a stimulating and highly accessible cinematic conversation,” and The Hollywood Reporter adds, “The deep spirituality it discusses so intelligently will appeal to open-minded viewers…” The film explores the Baha’i faith through the eyes of a Papua New Guinean gardener, whose fellow-religionists are persecuted in Iran and their volunteer leaders have been in prison for the past five years.

The Makhmalbafs’ aim in making this film is to counteract the misrepresentation of the Baha'i community by the Iranian government and ultimately serve as a social-advocacy film like his previous work "Afghan Alphabet" (Fajr ’02) that changed Iranian education-law, enabling millions of Afghan refugee children to attend schools in Iran.

"The Gardener" had its World Premier at the closing gala of the Busan Int’l Film Festival (Korea) as the recipient of the Asian Cinema Fund and European premiere at the 42nd Rotterdam Int’l Film Festival (Netherlands). It won the “Best Documentary” award from Beirut Int’l Film Festival (Lebanon) and has been an official selection in a number of festivals in India, Japan, Norway, Lithuania, Georgia and Italy.

The film will open theatrically in North America this June and any grassroots organization or group of individuals can organize a screening in their cities. Critics are invited to review and can request a screener by writing to the email below. Interview requests with the filmmakers are also welcome. Detailed information on the film including the upcoming US Premier screenings in D.C. Metro Area can be accessed via the official website

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