Panahi's films reflect his deeply humanistic perspective on life in Iran, often focusing on children, girls, women, and the poor. His widely disributed 2006 Offside features a group of young Iranian girls who disguise themselves as boys (women are not allowed to watch soccer in Iran) to sneak into Azadi Stadium to watch the World Cup qualifying football playoff game between Iran and Bahrain.
In March 2010, the Iranian government arrested Panahi, his wife, daughter, and 15 friends, charging them with anti-government propaganda. Despite global support from filmmakers and human rights organizations, in December, Panahi was sentenced to a six-year jail sentence and a 20-year ban on directing any movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media, or from leaving the country.
While appealing the judgment, Panahi made This Is Not a Film, a documentary feature in the form of a video diary of his house arrest. It was smuggled out of Iran and shown at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and released on DVD, introducing Panahi, as a person as well as filmmaker, to people around the world. In February 2013 the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival showed Closed Curtain (Pardé) by Panahi and Kambuzia Partovi, for which Panahi won the Silver Bear for Best Script.
As in the The White Balloon, Panahi casts the city of Tehran as a star of his newest film Taxi, which premiered at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2015, and was awarded the Golden Bear. Berlin Jury president Darren Aronofsky described the heart-warming film as "a love letter to cinema...filled with love for his art, his community, his country and his audience."
Jafar Panahar supports the Iran Deal:
I work with imagination, but not imagination alone. Imagination immersed in reality.
At present, I sense that what is happening in the US congress is imagination with no sense of reality. They think or they imagine that with sanctions and war, things can be accomplished. This is not so, this is not the reality of my country.
War and sanctions bring about crises and crisis is the death of democracy, the death of peace, and the death of human rights and civil rights. I ask the US congress to open their eyes to the reality on the ground and let people choose their own destiny by ratifying the Iran Deal."