Tehran ~ Iran
2010 Prince Claus Laureate Independent filmmaker Mehrdad Oskouei (Tehran, 1969) penetrates subaltern segments of Iranian society to give voice to unknown perspectives, challenge preconceptions and offer unique readings of people’s lives and experiences. Graduating from Tehran’s University of Arts, he started in theatre and short fiction films before turning towards realistic reporting. He has developed a hybrid cinematic language that combines documentary, poetic and dramatic sensibilities, enabling him to convey the multiple layers of reality. Oskouei’s personal concern and commitment to the people he films creates trust, which is the vital spark in his works. In The Other Side of the Burka (2004), an investigation of high female suicide rates in a patriarchal enclave in southern Iran, he achieves an unprecedented degree of openness. The women tell their own stories, describe their suffering and discuss their situation with honesty and clarity in close-up face-to-face interviews; documentary facts ¬of the women’s rooms, work, routines and the community rituals enacted to deal with symptoms are interwoven with evocative metaphors and moments of psychological pain, the glimpse of a shoulder, the corpse beneath the burial cloth. His 24 films offer in-depth encounters with orphans, widowers and juvenile delinquents, and examine Iranian experience of broken homes, rhinoplasty and urban youth cultures. Passionate about the role of film in social development, Oskouei founded the Short Film Society and runs workshops to stimulate young filmmakers. Mehrdad Oskouei is honoured for his moving, informative and evocative films, for his honest engagement with his subjects and his commitment to accurately representing their concerns, and for working in difficult contexts to break down prejudice and generate social justice.