Mania Akbari (b. Tehran, 1974) is an internationally acclaimed intersectional feminist artist and filmmaker who gained early recognition in the Iranian underground art scene, seeking freedom beyond censorship. During the digital cinema revolution in Iran, she transitioned from a painting career to the camera as a mode of storytelling. Akbari delves into the webs of body politics, by documenting personal narratives through the female gaze as a form of empowerment encouraging critical reflection on bodily oppression and suffering. Concerned with the socio-political traumatisation of female-identifying bodies, Akbari transforms lived experience into an act of resistance by uncovering hidden historical and cultural memory and examines the transgenerational transmission of trauma. Weaving through the relationship between the camera and the body, Akbari identifies the body as a metaphor, as a political message with a revolutionary capacity against the patriarchal status quo. Led by a therapeutic approach, Akbari’s practice is often collaborative and participatory. Akbari works with other women to question the ways their bodies are positioned and valued in society, and to explore the relational confluence of embodied memory and gendered violence. Drawing on accounts of sexual assault, abortion, pregnancy, illness, body image, gender, and sexuality through archival material and biopolitical fiction, her films generate dialogues between past and present, between trauma and reflexive healing.
Akbari is committed to highlighting the invisible, with a fierce defiance against heteronormative socialisation. Her distinct filmmaking process reframes how we view personal and national histories and produces radical potentialities for women to regain control of their bodies through sharing, talking, and listening. Selected film awards include Feature Film (Digital Section), Venice International Film Festival (2004) for 20 Fingers (2004); New:Vision Award (2019) at CPH:DOX, Copenhagen, Denmark and FIPRESCI International Critics Award (2019), Flying Broom Festival, Ankara, Turkey for A Moon For My Father (2019).