December 6, 2023

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Hengameh Panahi, Celluloid Dreams Founder and Celebrated French-Iranian Producer, Dies at 67

Hengameh Panahi, Celluloid Dreams Founder and Celebrated French-Iranian Producer, Dies at 67

The acclaimed French-Iranian film producer Hengameh Panahi has passed away at the age of 67, leaving behind an unmatched legacy in international arthouse cinema. Born in Iran and settling in France, Panahi founded the pioneering sales company Celluloid Dreams in 1993, which championed bold and politically provocative movies worldwide. She later rebranded it as Directors Label as she became more involved in production and development.

Over her remarkable three-decade career, Panahi cultivated close creative relationships and forged co-production/co-financing deals with some of the most renowned international directors, including Jafar Panahi, Jacques Audiard, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Jia Zhangke, and Abbas Kiarostami. Her discerning taste and ability to spot promising talent early on were unmatched in the industry.

Some of the most acclaimed arthouse films she helped bring to life include Jafar Panahi’s Taxi Tehran, which won the Golden Bear at Berlin, Jacques Audiard’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Dheepan, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, and Ramin Bahrani’s Venice film From Afar. Even in her later years, Panahi executive produced Brandon Cronenberg’s 2022 sci-fi thriller Infinity Pool.

Beyond her career accomplishments, Panahi was known for her fiery personality, passion for cinema, and the close bonds she forged with filmmakers. She served as a bridge between Iranian cinema and the West. Just last year, she was appointed by France’s culture minister to the country’s Oscar selection committee.

Panahi’s unexpected passing on November 5, 2022, at the age of 67, after a long illness, came as a shock to the film community. Her contributions over 30+ years of discovering new talent, supporting directors’ visions, and bringing bold global stories to worldwide audiences leave an unmatched legacy. Hengameh Panahi was a trailblazer who pushed arthouse cinema forward through the force of her personality, relationships, and love of the art form. She will be dearly missed. Source

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